Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Bloggers Anonymous: Enough is Enough


Welcome to the first edition of Blogger Anonymous. Not quite so anonymous, but definitely a place where people (mainly me, but feel free to join in), post about issues and drama that is currently plaguing me pertaining to blogging.



I debated about making this post for over a month now. Debated, toiled, fretted, worried, plotted, pondered, agonized - 

OK, maybe not agonized.

I feel like this is an issue every blogger faces at some point: Jealousy. And not just "Oh, that's a cute bracelet" jealous. I mean gut churning, dark thoughts, I give up jealous. I seem to be seeing more and more of this, and I will admit I've struggled with this myself. 

About two months ago I was truly fighting daily with myself about closing the blog down for good. It's something my friends and my awesome co-blogger knew about, but I felt like admitting it openly - to everyone in the blogosphere - was ridiculous and so not important in the grand scheme of things. But I didn't like the person blogging was turning me into.

What started as a fun hobby had morphed into an obsession that was constantly eating at me. Every instagram post I saw where a blogger got an ARC or 10 I didn't get, I wondered what I had done wrong. How could I be a better blogger? How could I get on people's radar? What new ways could I up my comments? Or bring more page hits?

It got to the point where I was legit obsessed to a point that was scaring me. I feel like since I started blogging I've always been chasing an unattainable number. When I first started it was all about the GFC count. I convinced myself that if I could hit 1,000 GFC followers then I had arrived. Cue the marching band and confetti. (Please don't ask where/why/how my twisted little mind decided that was the magic number.) And then, about a year and a half after blogging, I hit that number. I was elated.

For a week.



But then it wasn't about GFC numbers anymore. I was about my Klout score. My Twitter followers. My Facebook likes, my email subscribers ... Every time I wrapped my mind around one set of numbers, it changed. Now it's page views. Or unique page views. Maybe both (it took me almost a year to figure out the distinction). 

Wait - or is it Bloglovin' followers?

HOLD ON! This just in! Something called an Alexa is the new standard by which bloggers are judged? The only Alexa I know was in a couple Spy Kids movies back in the day, but OK....



Blogging stopped being a fun hobby and became a chore that I dreaded. Reading books wasn't exciting - it was a means to an end. Read a book to write a review. Post a review to get some page views. I found myself competing with my friends - I got irrationally jealous when they had more twitter followers than me. Or more comments on their posts. 

I finally hit my breaking point one night where I had my cursor positioned on the "Delete Blog" button. I was done. I was over feeling like crap and worrying and freaking out about stuff that - at the end of the day - wasn't the be all/end all of my life.



It took a lot of furious text message sessions between some bloggers friends before I finally settled down and decided to take a step back. I made a conscious decision to breathe and not touch the blog for a week and back away from social media. After the first couple of days, it became easier. Instead of trying to adhere to a a strict book reading and posting schedule, I just did what I wanted.

You know - the way I did when I first started down this rabbit hole 3 years ago.



I guess the reason I'm bringing up all of this now is because I have several friends who are currently struggling with this very thing. And I know we can't be the only ones. I don't want to see a lot of awesome bloggers throw in the towel because they forgot - we forgot - why we started doing this at in the first place.

So what if you don't get that ARC everyone else did? Can you honestly tell me you don't have a shelf or more of unread books somewhere? If people have better stats than you? More followers? More power to 'em. 

Every follower you have in every facet of blogging and social media is someone saying, "You're worth it and you matter" on a daily basis. If even 5 people are willing to follow you, that's amazing. You've influenced and touched those 5 people.

So, stop and count. Right now. Do it. How many people have you reached? Can you name them all? How long would it take you to write each and every single one of them a quick "Thanks for following me" note? 

I'm not saying I'll never get jealous again. But now I can keep it in better perspective and I'm loving blogging again. It's fun. And isn't that the whole point?



Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Tease by Amanda Maciel

Title: Tease
Author: Amanda Maciel
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: 4.29.2014
Pages: 336
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Issues, Bullying
Series: No
Source: ARC from ALA MW

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault.

At least, that's what everyone seems to think. Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. Now Sara is the one who's ostracized, already guilty according to her peers, the community, and the media.

During the summer before her senior year, in between meetings with lawyers and a court-recommended therapist, Sara is forced to reflect on the events that brought her to this moment—and ultimately consider her role in an undeniable tragedy. And she'll have to find a way to move forward, even when it feels like her own life is over.

In this powerful debut novel inspired by real-life events, Amanda Maciel weaves a narrative of high school life as complex and heartbreaking as it is familiar: a story of everyday jealousies and resentments, misunderstandings and desires. 
Tease is a thought-provoking must-read that will haunt readers long after the last page.

Review:
I am fully expecting to be in the minority when it comes to my thoughts on this book, but I loved it. I don’t know that most seasoned authors would try to tackle this aspect of bullying, let alone a debut author, but Amanda Maciel utterly blew me away with TEASE.

Let’s talk about Sara, our narrator. Sara is unapologetic and truly doesn’t see what she did was wrong for the majority of this book. She blames Emma for killing herself, Emma’s parents for not watching out for Emma, Brielle for being the dominant friend she had to please … Emma was an annoying, whiner who truly could not see what she did wrong.

I will admit that this floored me. I wanted to shake her. How did she not see that what she and Brielle were doing to Emma was cruel and bullying? It took me half a book to wrap my head around Sara, and even then I frequently had to set this book down for a day or so because she left me fuming with her ignorance and aloofness. It took me a couple weeks to read this book. Weeks.

But here’s where I finally figured Sara out and it both humbled and sobered me: We’re all Sara. Sara didn’t do or say anything that we haven’t. I could be all pious and stand on my soapbox and say what a disgusting, disturbing book this is because the main character feels no remorse for what she did, but I challenge any of you to read this and not find yourself in Sara.

How many times have you been with your girlfriends and laughed about another girl? Gone out with coworkers and bashed another girl in the office? How many of you have been cheated on and blamed the other woman instead of your guy? Every time you’ve thought, muttered, whispered or shouted, “whore” “bitch” “slut” “skank” or any other colorful insult (that admittedly flies off my lips with way too much ease), you are Sara. You are a bully.

Yes, Sara does go through a shift of her personality and while she spends the vast majority of the book in an ignorant, bitter haze, she does start to come out of it. I love that Maciel told it from Sara’s point of view. We’ve all seen the newspaper articles, People magazines, news blasts of these tragic suicides brought about from bullying. But it always bothered me that as much as people spouted the evils of bullying, they bullied and condemned the bullies. Somehow two wrongs made a right, and that never sat with me.

This book is going to be very polarizing. You will love it or hate it, but I beg of you to see it for what it is and see the power and raw beauty in what Maciel says. It takes a remarkable author to make me love a book and hate a main character, but that was the line Maciel walked for the bulk of this book with me. It is incredibly powerful and moving.

Buy: Amazon

Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Don't Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Title: Don’t Look Back
Author: Jennifer L. Armentrout
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Publication Date: 4.15.2014
Pages: 384
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Series: No
Source: ARC from ALA MW

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Samantha is a stranger in her own life. Until the night she disappeared with her best friend, Cassie, everyone said Sam had it all-popularity, wealth, and a dream boyfriend. 

Sam has resurfaced, but she has no recollection of who she was or what happened to her that night. As she tries to piece together her life from before, she realizes it's one she no longer wants any part of. The old Sam took "mean girl" to a whole new level, and it's clear she and Cassie were more like best enemies. Sam is pretty sure that losing her memories is like winning the lottery. She's getting a second chance at being a better daughter, sister, and friend, and she's falling hard for Carson Ortiz, a boy who has always looked out for her-even if the old Sam treated him like trash. 

But Cassie is still missing, and the facts about what happened to her that night isn't just buried deep inside of Sam's memory-someone else knows, someone who wants to make sure Sam stays quiet. All Sam wants is the truth, and if she can unlock her clouded memories of that fateful night, she can finally move on. But what if 
not remembering is the only thing keeping Sam alive?

Review:
Jennifer L. Armentrout has been an “auto-buy” author for me for quite some time now. I’ve yet to read something of hers I didn’t love and DON’T LOOK BACK is no exception. But more than that, Armentrout continually proves herself to be a versatile writer. She has mastered steamy scenes, made me fall for a demon, a gargoyle, a god, and an alien, but now she once again proves no genre is outside of her reach with the creepy contemporary thriller.

I loved Sam from the beginning. I loved her snark and wit and that her inner monologue was what I expected my own to be if I woke up with a blank memory. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her break away and question her friends, not blindly led around by people she was supposed to love and trust.

Carson was my hero. I need one of him in my life. The way he protected and challenged Sam was exactly what Sam needed.

This plot takes more twists and turns than a rollercoaster. Nothing is what it seems, everyone has an ulterior motive, and if you think you know what happened, I promise you don’t. Fans of Armentrout’s undoubtedly had this one on pre-order, but for those who haven’t been WOWed by her before or never got into her paranormal novels, DON’T LOOK BACK is a wonderful place for you to fall in love with her writing.
 Buy: Amazon

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Title: Scarlet
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: 2.5.2013
Pages: 454
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, SciFi
Series: Lunar Chronicles #2
Source: Purchased finished copy

Rating: 5 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

Review:
Little Red Riding Hood was always a childhood favorite. And now I have an even better version!  That was the first thing that came to mind after reading this. Just like Cinderella came to mind with Cinder.

I love how Marissa took that childhood story and made into something so much more and personally way better. Scarlet has so much character and spark I wish i could meet her. I think we would get along really well. With not knowing who she was at first, I was so intrigued by her that I had to keep reading. She is so determined and goes after what she believes in with all her heart. She isn't afraid to do anything even if means risking herself to save ones she loves. She is very inspirational.

One of my favorite characters was Wolf. He was so mysterious. Giving little bits of his life at a time, giving you a minute to think he was really the bad guy. I loved him, how could you not?!

I could sit her and list thousands of things about this book that were amazing.  I was always gasping and going "oh no" or "no way" throughout this whole book. You think you know what's going to happen and BAM, just kidding totally not what happens.  It would be hard not to love a badass version of Little Red Riding Hood. How could you not love that? Marissa definitely didn't disappoint in this second book. I will be rereading this series over and over.
 

Buy: Amazon

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cover Reveal: Mortal Enchantment by Stacey O'Neale

Today, Stacey O'Neale and Phoenix Reign Publishing are revealing the cover for
MORTAL ENCHANTMENT, releasing on May 20, 2014!
Check out the awesome cover and enter to win a $50 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Card!!!
On to the reveal!
Mortal Enchantment

“Mortal Enchantment spins a unique twist on elemental mythology. This series is not to be missed.”
Jennifer L. Armentrout, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author


In Kalin Matthew's world, elementals control the forces of nature. They are divided into four courts: air, woodland, fire, and water. At sixteen she will leave the life she's built with her mortal mother. Kalin will move to Avalon to rule with her father—the elemental king of the air court. Along the way, she's attacked by a fire court assassin and saved by Rowan, a swoon-worthy elemental with a questionable past.

Worst of all, she learns her father is missing.

To rescue him, Kalin will have to work with a judgmental council and a system of courts too busy accusing each other of deceit to actually be able to help her. But, they aren’t her biggest challenge. With the Midwinter’s Ball only five days away, Kalin must take over her father’s duties, which includes shifting control of the elements—power Kalin has yet to realize.

As Rowan attempts to train her, a war looms between the four courts. If Kalin fails, her father will die and the courts will fall, but the betrayal she’s about to uncover may cost her even more...
If you haven't read THE SHADOW PRINCE, you can download if NOW for FREE from Amazon and Barnes & Noble!!!
The Shadow PrinceEvery sacrifice has consequences.

Sixteen-year-old Rowan has spent most of his life living among the mortals—learning to control the element of fire, impatiently awaiting the day his vengeful mother, Queen Prisma, will abdicate her throne. When he finally returns to Avalon for his coronation, his mother insists he must first prove his loyalty to the court by completing a secret mission:

Kill Kalin, the half-human, half-elemental daughter of the air court king.

Willing to do anything to remove his mother from power, he agrees to sacrifice the halfling. He returns to the mortal world with his best friend, Marcus, determined to kill the princess. But as he devises a plan, he starts to question whether or not he's capable of completing such a heinous task. And what price he will pay if he refuses?
Available for FREE on Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Also available in PRINT from Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Photoshoot-21Stacey O'Neale lives in Annapolis, Maryland. When she's not writing, she spends her time fangirling over books, blogging, watching fantasy television shows, cheering for the Baltimore Ravens, and hanging out with her husband and daughter.

Her career in publishing started as a blogger-turned-publicist for two successful small publishers. Stacey writes young adult paranormal romance and adult science fiction romance. Her books always include swoon-worthy heroes, snarky heroines, and lots of kissing.

Stacey loves hearing from readers. Follow her on Twitter @StaceyONeale, look for her on Facebook, Pinterest, and GoodReads. You can also visit her blog at http://staceyoneale.com/.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Author Interview: Julie Harrington

1. What was your inspiration for SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT?
The biggest inspiration for this story, like most of my books, comes from
real life.  Sometimes it's a question or a philosophical musing.  In this
case the inspiration was "change."

I'd been a caregiver to my grandparents for over 10 years.  When that
ended, I suddenly had all this time and attention that used to be devoted
to taking care of others that now shifted to taking care of myself.  It
sounds great, but at the same time all that change, being forced to
examine your life and where you want to go, what you want to be, it was
overwhelming.

Drastic changes can be frightening, and when you go through an experience
like caregiving, your attitude about life, about people and what's really
important is challenged.  Annabell Leahey and Mitchell Black came out of
those challenges.  They were both caregivers in different situations.  Now
both are a little lost.  Ann wants to embrace change and be a little wild,
a little bad.  Who better to show her the ropes than Mitchell, the town's
legendary bad boy?  That's when sparks start to fly.  Ann & Mitchell's
story is a really about two people learning how to have fun again and
finding unexpected love along the way.  And humor.  I'm a big believer in
laughter in life.


2. Have you always been a writer?
I can't remember a time when I didn't want to write.  I totally give
credit to my 4th grade teacher for inspiring my love of writing.  From
that day forward I either had my nose buried in a book to read or in a
notebook to write.


3. What is the best/worst thing of being an indie author?
I've skirted the edge of indie author so far.  All my books have been
published through e-publishers who have worked with me to bring each book
to life.  Some projects have required a more indie author attitude.
During that work I definitely discovered the pros and cons.

On the Pro side there's a lot of control.  You write what you like, how
you like and get to tell the story your way.  You can publish as fast as
you want.  Your book doesn't sit around while you try to find an agent or
a publisher, or sit around even longer as you wait for your actual
publication date.  I've had books sit with publishers for three to five
years.  That's not a complaint.  That's really how long the process can
last.  It shocks writers when they hear that sometimes.  As an indie
author, you also control pricing.  You get all the income from the
royalties.  There's a lot of freedom to being your own boss.

On the Con side there's a lot of responsibility mixed in with all that
control, like editing, proofreading, formatting, and creating the cover.
That's just getting the book physically done.  You're writer, editor,
copy-editor, graphic designer.  After the book is done, you have to
distribute, promote, and get it reviewed.  It's a lot of work.  You also
have to get a website going, a blog if you have one, establish your social
media platforms, do the bookkeeping, keep track of expenses, learn about
taxes, etc.  It can be very overwhelming.  There are lots of great
services that can help, but the learning curve can feel really steep.
Fortunately, the writing community is supportive and can help you avoid
pitfalls.

I think being honest about what your strengths and weaknesses are is
really important.  Knowing what you can do, what you want to do, and what
you can farm out to other people or services is crucial.  You learn that
it's okay to not be great at everything.  You can be indie and still farm
out some tasks to help make success easier.  On the flipside you'll
discover some talents you didn't even know you had.  It's all about
balance.


4. What are your "must haves" while writing? Coffee? Music? Silence?
My only real "must have" is a schedule.  I write best when I have a solid
start and stop time and I stick to it.  If I wait for inspiration to
strike, it spells doom for any progress.

I also love uninterrupted writing time.  A schedule helps create that.  I
can't write to music but I learned I didn't need silence either during two
years of construction on my home (complete with jackhammers).  That's when
I found out I could tune just about anything out!

My other big "must have" is the will-power to resist distractions.  If the
phone rings, I let voicemail get it.  I stay offline unless I need to
research something.  I won't check my email unless I'm taking a break.
It's those little time-stealers that will rob an entire day away before
you even realize it.


5. What upcoming projects are you working on?
I have several projects I'm working on but the two largest ones are a
contemporary and paranormal series.

The contemporary romance series follows a group of women whose lives
change due to a wedding invitation.  That invitation sets off a domino
effect that brings all the heroes into their lives.  I love that each
story has some real life magic to them, exploring fate, destiny, and soul
mates.  Each story should be a fun, sexy adventure, just like a getaway to
a romantic island resort should be!

The paranormal romance series is a departure from my previously published
books but a return to an old genre I love.  I'd written paranormal
romances in fan fiction and just fell in love with the cool mix of
romance, magic, and adventure.  The genre's been calling to me lately and
these characters just excite me.  The series brings a group of witches
together with some sinfully sexy demons.  What excites me the most about
this series is that each story brings together all the elements I
personally love.  There's action, danger, myth and legend, tattoos,
strong, sassy heroines and lots of hot heroes.  Muscles and magic.  Does
it get any better?

About the Author:
An unabashed romantic, Julie Harrington makes her home near Chicago,
Illinois.  Her love of reading and writing began in grade school with an
assignment – ironically enough – about our dream career that swerved her
from marine biologist to author.  Julie eventually won a contest in a
college literary magazine and the pursuit of publication led her to the
Romance Writers of America where she later became a Golden Heart Finalist
for Best Short Contemporary Romance with her novel Something To Talk
About.


When she's not writing, Julie devotes her time to her family and friends,
puts her degree in Computer Information Systems to good use as a recording
secretary, and spends way too much time online hunting for new additions
to her ever-growing collection of dragons.

Links:
Website: http://www.julieharrington.net/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Julie-Harrington/238324822904744
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JewelHarrington

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: Something to Talk About by Julie Harrington

Title: Something To Talk About
Author: Julie Harrington
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Publication Date: 4.18.2012
Pages: 224
Genre: New Adult, Romance
Series: No
Source: Purchased ebook

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary (from Goodreads):
Born-to-be-bland meets born-to-be-wild...

Annabelle Leahey is ready to be bad. Fed up with quilting bees and bridge clubs, Ann has to change or grow old alone. But going from bashful to bold won't be easy—especially since thong underwear is her idea of risqué. So Ann needs a guide, and rancher Mitchell Black is the perfect candidate.

The last thing Mitchell needs is more trouble. He hasn't lived down his bad boy days yet and he has no intention of resurrecting them now. But when Ann asks for his help, he can't refuse. Especially since the preacher's daughter has suddenly become a fireball of temptation.

Mitchell's determined to keep his role in Ann's research hands-off, but Ann has plans of her own. She intends to show Mitchell what's he's missing—and that being bad with the right person can be o-o-o-oh so good.

Review:
Let me start by saying that I have known Julie Harrington for over a decade in some way or another. I’ve read her work and was a fan, but before you think that means I would give SOMETHING TO TALK ABOUT a little leniency, you’re dead wrong. Quite the opposite. Because I know what Harrington is capable of with her writing, I held her to an even higher standard than I would another author.

And she rose beautifully to the occasion.

Oh, Ann. Poor, sweet Ann who wants desperately to shed her goodie-two-shoes image and just be a bad girl for a little while. After losing her mother as a child and then her father when she was barely an adult, she’s been thrust into the role of caregiver for better part of a decade. Watching her wake up and take control of her own life was exciting and amusing all at once. I loved watching her with Mitchell from innocence to innuendo, these two thoroughly entertained me.

The only faults I could find with this book were that I wished the secondary characters has been expanded more (but I shall forgive this fault if Harrington gives Dillon and Justin their own books) and there wasn’t anything that shocked me with this book. But it is a swoony, sweet read that I devoured in a day.

Harrington has a gift when it comes to writing. From the bar room brawl in the beginning that had me chuckling aloud to the oh-so-steamy moments later on that had me reaching for some ice water, I was happily along for this journey. Definitely not a book to be missed!
Buy: Amazon
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