Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Recommended eBook of the Week

Since the title seemed so interesting, I couldn't help making this my new recommended ebook of the week! :) The Death of a Disco Dancer has the following description:

One night, eleven-year-old Todd Whitman receives a terrifying but hilarious midnight visitor: his cockatoo-plumed, dementia-stricken, John Travolta-smitten Grandma Carter. In constant nocturnal search of the mysterious "Dancer," Grandma clutches her absurdly precious Saturday Night Fever album cover and giggles her way through the dance steps of her youth.

When forty-something Todd returns home to help his dying mother, he reflects on that pivotal summer of 1981: the unique relationship he developed with his grandmother, the chaos of finding his place in a large Mormon family, the near misses of impressing the one-and-only Jenny Gillette, and the utter social catastrophe of junior high.

Ultimately, despite the ups and downs of life, Todd finds peace and strength through the selfless and dedicated lives of his grandmother and mother. "

Sounds good, right? :) So click here or click the link on the left side of my blog to buy it from Smashwords!

Shameless Shit #28 - Discuss a failure.

As I embark upon yet another semester of my Master's degree in Business, I am once again struggling to deal with one of my more recent failures - namely, of having to shut down my t-shirt printing business. Sure, I had been unhappy in the business for a few months for various reasons (including a particularly venemous customer who seemed hellbent on making my life miserable for something that wasn't even my fault), and I had only started the t-shirt business to one day move on to something bigger and better like owning a brick & mortar retail store or a bed and breakfast. I also had a major surgery coming up that I needed money for, and the only reasonable source seemed to be to sell my business equipment (my medical insurance pretty much bites the big one, with a deductible of $2,500 that has to be covered before anything gets paid for).

But the fact is, I'm not a quitter, and it really hurt my pride to admit that it was better for me to begin working for someone else for a while. It also hurt to realize that in the time I had run the business I hadn't been able to learn graphic design like I was hoping - I had needed to rely on my husband for that, which was something else that hurt the business since he was busy enough working his job and going to school full time.

So as I sit here reading about how to set up a business for financial success, there's a little voice in my head that is taunting me, calling me a quitter and a failure. Thankfully, there's a stronger voice in my head that reminds me that it was a wonderful learning experience that helped me to learn more about myself and my future goals for running a business.

As Winston Churchill would say: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm. "

And I still have enthusiasm! :)

Recommended Read - Orcs: Forged for War by Stan Nicholls

Orcs: Forged for WarOrcs: Forged for War by Stan Nicholls

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never read a graphic novel before picking up this book, but I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed this! It had a lot of action and the illustrations were fantastic. The author really made the orcs sympathetic heroes which was refreshing. My only complaint was that the font used for the narration was difficult to read. I also wished there was more story text - but then again, I'm used to reading "regular" books and not graphic novels, so I'm not holding that against this book because I'm sure it had plenty of story text for this type of book. :)

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Recommended Read - Rachel Spinelli Punched Me in the Face by Paul Acampora

Recommende Read - Ivy's Ever After by Dawn Lairamore

Ivy's Ever AfterIvy's Ever After by Dawn Lairamore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is such a great fairy tale! It's a refreshing twist on the classics and contains a loveable heroine with fantastic companions who go on a unique adventure to save the kingdom and discontinue an unnecessary tradition. There's plenty of action to keep the reader turning the pages, and a good splash of feminism to the plot that a woman like myself can fully appreciate. It also contains a great lesson about looking beyond appearances to the person within. An overall entertaining read!

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Recommended Read - Chance in Hell by Patrick Kampman

Chance in HellChance in Hell by Patrick Kampman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I loved how this book starts out in the thick of the action and then keeps up that same pace throughout - there's never a dull moment! Great characters and a new and interesting plot kept me interested and turning the next page the whole time, and I was glad that the story left room for more books to follow either before the timeline in this book or after it - I would definitely read them! There were a couple of small spelling errors ("bye" instead of "by") and a couple of editing errors involving quotation marks, but they didn't retract from the story too much.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Recommended Read - Beyond Broccoli by Susan Schenck

Beyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn't WorkBeyond Broccoli, Creating a Biologically Balanced Diet When a Vegetarian Diet Doesn't Work by Susan Schenck LAc

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Beyond Broccoli explores the nutritional side of diets, especially vegan and vegetarian diets. I enjoyed that the author was very straightforward about how she doesn't have all the answers and that not every diet is right for every person. Vegan, vegetarian and raw diets have become more and more popular and have been interesting to me, and I like how the author explained both their benefits an their drawbacks. I appreciate that she differentiated between men and women when it comes to health, because our systems don't always respond the same to different diets. The author is brave to stand up against the popular vegan/vegetarian myths. I also like that she touches on the problem with our ever-growing population and what it is doing to our food sources.

My favorite quote from the book was where the author states "...no amount of philosophy is going to change the body's nutritional requirements."

Some of the language in the book is pretty difficult and scientific, but it shows that the author has done her research and isn't just sharing opinion. It can also make the book a little more boring for some people. Also, during the testimonials it switched back and forth between first and third person, which was pretty annoying - perhaps if there had been quotation marks used for the first person portions, it would flow a little better.

Overall, this book is crammed with a whole lot of information on how to create a better-balanced diet that increases brain and body health. It's a very long read that forces the reader to think, so if you are looking for one of those "fast read fad" diet books, you'll have to look somewhere else.

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Sorta Recommended Read - Five Reasons to Leave a Lover by Carolyn Moncel

5 Reasons to Leave a Lover - A Novella and Other Short Stories5 Reasons to Leave a Lover - A Novella and Other Short Stories by Carolyn Moncel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I won this book through Firstreads, which rocked my world! :) This book examines love, or rather, losing love. There were a few editing mistakes involving quotation marks, but otherwise no large errors. However, the book just wasn't as interesting as I was hoping it would be. The story bounced around a bit and just felt a little too mundane and everyday, without any lessons. The short stories included at the end of the book were a little better as they examined love from other angles. Overall, I feel like this book is only ok.

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Recommended Read - Conversion by S. C. Stephens

Conversion (Conversion #1)Conversion by S.C. Stephens

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wished it didn't have a summary at the beginning of the book - I like getting into the story as soon as I can without having to read "extra" stuff in the beginning.
There were a couple of minor grammatical errors - "startled" instead of "started," "teethed" instead of "toothed," but they didn't take away too much from the story (I just happen to notice those things and then have the intense urge to get out a red ink pen and correct them!). The extra space between the paragraphs did bother me, though - it felt like hiccups or pauses that shouldn't be there and that interrupted the story flow.
I really enjoyed the overall romantic story, especially the humor and the interesting characters. I think the best part about the characters in this vampire novel is that they are ADULTS, not lovesick teens who "live happily ever after"!! I'm sure there are plenty of readers out there who can agree with that assessment.
There's a great unpredictable twist closer towards the end, but then the final ending was just a little too predictable and disappointing for me. However, I liked the characters enough that I'm considering reading any sequels, etc.

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cool New Gig on Kickstarter!

As an author, I love it when I find unique projects that would benefit others. I found a GREAT project on Kickstarter today: http://kck.st/rpMT7c . The project will be a book of games and facts about the Statue of Liberty, enough to keep any child captivated while learning more about the iconic symbol of our country!

I just had to back this project, because I could imagine taking my niece and nephews out there and using that book to help them learn while being entertained. You can back the project with as little as $1! Come join me in backing this project. :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Recommended Read - Charlie's Haunting by Mary Nicholson

Recommended Read - The Taker by Alma Katsu

The TakerThe Taker by Alma Katsu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This story is a hauntingly new take on immortality with complex characters and a richness of emotions that I haven't found in any other novel. While there were some shockingly graphic adult scenes, they added to the overall theme of the book and created a dark yet realistic world and a mix of the past and present. With several interwoven characters, a story is created that is both dark and a deep reflection on what the definition of humanity really is. This book wouldn't be suitable for anyone under the age of 18, but is a well-recommended adult read!

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Recommended Read - Into Thin Eyr by Michael Horton

Into Thin EyrInto Thin Eyr by Michael Horton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story has a decidedly "Wizard of Oz" feel as the main character moves from land to land, each filled with remarkable people and creatures. It also reminded me of "Alice in Wonderland" as it contained amazing adventures for a young girl to have. It has an interesting story resolution, but it felt a little too abrupt and contrived/forced to me - I would have liked to have it drawn out more and be a little more natural. I would have also liked to learn more about the chameleons that were so prevalent throughout the story - they felt like they weren't developed enough as to the why/how aspect, which was sad since they were some of my favorite characters! This is a good overall read.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Recommended Read - Twin-Bred by Karen A. Wyle

Twin-BredTwin-Bred by Karen A. Wyle

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is an interesting new concept all revolving around the idea of twins and the unique connection that they seem to share. A science experiment involving the lives of both human and Tofa weaves a story of hope and determination in the face of severe discrimination. The story jumps around a bit at first so it's hard to keep everything straight. I wished that there were lines or symbols that distinguished between scenes - but that could have been because I was reading an electronic copy rather than a hard copy. There are a lot of names to keep track of, but there is a helpful names list at the end of the book if you need it and you're reading a hard copy rather than the electronic copy (because on eBook readers, jumping around like that is a bit too much work, you can't just "flip to the back" like with a "real" book). This was a wonderful read that encourages the reader to explore what the definition of humanity really is.

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Recommended Read - Ivy and the Meanstalk by Dawn Lairamore

Ivy and the MeanstalkIvy and the Meanstalk by Dawn Lairamore

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this delightful spin on Jack and the Beanstalk and the new, interesting characters that were introduced! It explores the familiar story of Jack and the Beanstalk, but with a twist - what if Jack was a megalomaniac and what if the giant's wife is unable to cope with the loss of her beloved husband and harp? I love following Princess Ivy, and I look forward to any future books that star this smart and interesting character!

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First Reads Flop - Worm: The Story of the First Digital World War by Mark Bowden

Worm: The Story of the First Digital World WarWorm: The Story of the First Digital World War by Mark Bowden

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I couldn't finish the book - it just wasn't for me! The language was difficult and very techno-babble, while the plot just didn't pull me in. When I found myself having to re-read each page of the first chapter to try to get it, I decided this was not a book I wanted to spend my time on. However, if you like technology and can wade through the techno-babble, it might be the right book for you!

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Recommended Read - Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

Start Something That MattersStart Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An incredible read for anyone who has any entrepreneurial aspirations, or who already owns a business! Blake is an excellent example of creating a company that cares about more than just profits, and this book is his story as well as some helpful advice on creating a company with a purpose. I liked it so much that I read it twice!! This is a must-read for anyone who wants to learn how to be a great business owner.

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Monday, November 14, 2011

Shameless Shit #18: Brag

Amidst the craziness that is running errands on a Monday, I had something magical and wonderful happen today. Something that any woman could appreciate. Something that made me smile and blush and feel all sorts of wonderful, despite the fact that my most recent attempts at dieting have gotten me absolutely nowhere and I've been wallowing in blobtastic self-pity lately.

Today, while at the gas station, the clerk (a young and attractive teen/early 20-something) told me how much she loved my outfit and how she just had to tell me how great I looked!

Of course, I reacted with the usual clumsiness that is my slightly shy manner when it comes to this sort of thing - I smiled and mumbled a thank you and then tried to joke about how pretty much my entire outfit came from the JCPenny's clearance rack... and then she told me that it means my outfit was cute and smart!

I left with a big smile on my face. For someone who has grown up wearing Goodwill clothes (and now basically only clearance clothes), I have never really been known for fashion sense. But today I felt like a million bucks, and I just had to brag about this to all of you! :)

Recommended Read - The Myth of Nullus by Peter Rehard

The Myth of NullusThe Myth of Nullus by Peter Rehard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The start of the story is boring, but if you can make it past the story is new and different than most stories out there. It is a good overall allegorical tale, even despite its slow parts. It contains a few editing errors ("your" instead of "you," "my" instead of "by", etc.) and a couple of spelling errors that made me think that perhaps this story was translated into English from another language. Overall, this was a different and interesting story.

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Recommended Read - The Boy Who Hated Flowers by Michael Wenberg

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Reached My Goal of 111 Books in 2011!!

Yep I reached my goal!! :) Technically, I reached it several weeks ago, I'm just behind on getting my reviews up on Goodreads and here on the bloggity-blog. I kind of wish the tracker showed just how far I have trumped that goal - my guess is that I'll be about 50 books ahead by the end of the year.

I haven't decided yet how many to set a goal for next year... but it should probably be over 200! ;)

Recommended Read - Very Dead Dolls by Ian Woodhead

Fiverr Sorta Recommended Read - Launch Out Into the Deep by Acacia L. Slaton

Launch Out Into The Deep!Launch Out Into The Deep! by Acacia L. Slaton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Launch Out Into the Deep is a religious novel that intends to inspire hope and answer difficult faith questions. It touches on the hypocrisy and pain spread by some who call themselves Christians, and overcoming those obstacles without hatred. The language used in the writing is very poetic, and there are poems included throughout. In fact, there are a TON of poems in this book, so you really have to enjoy reading poetry to get into the book (sadly, I'm of the personal opinion that poetry is great for writing but not for reading). It has group discussion questions for each chapter and would be a great church group reading. There was a part of the book that talked about the author's personal experiences with converting someone and with having a vision, and I think that while it worked for this book it is important to remember that not everyone has those nor are they needed in order to find faith. This book is a little too fundamentalist for my particular faith beliefs, but I think more conservative faith audiences will get a lot out of it. Any person of faith can benefit from exploring their faith and the faith of those around them and asking questions!

From a formatting standpoint, the original font of this eBook was way too tiny, so I ended up resizing it to Extra Extra Large just to be able to read it. Otherwise, I didn't find any glaring errors.

Overall, this is a solid read, but reads similar to a diary, which isn't really my style. However, if you like reading first-person experiences with faith, this book will be great for you!

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Marketing Your Blog - 7 tips to Increase Readership

I originally wrote this as a guest post for Bloggers Network, but thought it would be good to share here! Enjoy!

These days, blogging has become a common form of communication and social networking. However, like New Year's resolutions, blogs often become obsolete as the owners find themselves distracted by life and/or disappointed by low readership.

While there's not much you can do about life except make a commitment to blog regularly, there is something you can do about low readership - you can market your blog! Just like you have to prove yourself in a job interview or work hard to accomplish a specific goal, you need to work hard to create a popular, well-followed blog.

Here's some tips to market your blog and boost your fan base:
1) Have a target audience. Sure, you could just use your blog as a journal of your everyday life, but let's be honest - most people could care less. Instead, try picking something you are passionate about, and then keep that as the theme of your blog to attract a specific audience. Unless it's something completely obscure, you should be able to find several loyal followers.

2) Be a guest blogger. With the world working longer days and weeks, it's no surprise that even the best bloggers are often too busy to post very often. By offering to do a guest post on someone elses blog, you help them to share new content while you get your own name out there (and they usually allow you to share a link back to your blog, too!).

3) Comment on other similar blogs. If you blog about books (like I do), then find some other book bloggers and comment on a few of their posts. Keep the comments relevant, and the blog authors will often come back and follow you, or even recommend your blog to their current readers.

4) Create a good first impression. If the first thing a potential follower sees on your blog is a blatant ad, or a bunch of offensive language, there's a strong possibility that you won't see that reader again. Keep your blog simple and streamlined, yet interesting, with only a few relevant ads (if any at all). You need to focus on your readers more than how to create a few extra pennies by putting ads all over the place - and perhaps in the future your readers will thank you by purchasing something you are selling through the blog!

5) Keep it interactional. Once again, if all you do is talk about yourself, you probably won't get more than your family to follow you. However, if you encourage debate and discussion, and express interesting new ideas, you encourage readers to come back often and check the progress of the discussion as well as your latest posts.

6) Use Social Media. If you're already on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. take advantage of that by using them to promote your blog each time you write a new post. This will get your blog out there to people you already interact with, and who are more likely to follow you. In turn, they may share your blog with their friends, which can greatly help increase awareness and readership.

7) Add subscription options. Make sure that you include RSS feeds if possible, along with receiving the latest posts by email, etc. This allows current followers to have access whenever you update, and then to forward or share the post if they so desire. Your best friend Sarah may not be interested in the latest post, but she might have a cousin who has a friend whose mom might enjoy it.

Recommended Read - Writing Critique by Rebecca M. Senese

Writing Critique: A Horror Short StoryWriting Critique: A Horror Short Story by Rebecca M. Senese

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was annoyed that the first few pages of the eBook were filled with a whole bunch of copyright information. As an author, I know it's important to protect one's work, but the excessive copyright stuff was a bit much and could be cut down.

The story itself is less of a horror story and more a really great glimpse at how deep the writing experience is for an author, and how difficult it can be to take criticism on your work. Your writing can truly feel like a child to you, and it's hard to hear suggestions on how to improve or change it! I thought it was a good story for any author to read and appreciate.

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Freebie Flop - Life Lessons From a Cat by Kate Everson

Life Lessons from a CatLife Lessons from a Cat by Kate Everson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This short story is good, but not very interesting. It was kind of like reading a poet's diary, complete with lots of words used to describe one simple concept. Nothing really grabbed my attention, but nothing was particularly horrible and there weren't any big grammatical errors.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New Recommended eBook of the Week

In honor of Breaking Dawn Part I coming out this week, I couldn't resist posting a vampire novel as my recommended eBook of the week! The book is called Octavian the Vampire, and here's the description:
"Octavian is a descendant of a rare breed of vampire from the Balkans and Eastern Europe that not only subsist by feeding on the life essence (generally in the form of blood) of living creatures, regardless of whether they are undead or a living person, but also on the essence of terror inflicted by violent sexual acts—primarily rape.
Blinded by his rage and hunger, he attacks the wrong victim, his human counterpart--his mate.
After the violent attack, several things happened at once, the woman screams, Octavian comes too and notices the blood running from her vaginal opening. That’s when he realizes that the woman was a virgin. It all downs on him and he knew what had been bothering him from the moment he lay eyes on her. The woman he had just terrorized and raped was his mate.
Twins ensue from the violent attack, Octavian goes on a long quest to regain her trust and make amends—An unlikely love grows and a strange family is formed. "

Click here to learn more about how to download the book!

NaNoWriMo - Are you participating?

Two years ago, I partook upon the craziness that is NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. It runs the entire month of November, and the goal is to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. Sounds fun, right? ;) It was fun, but I kept hitting writing blocks and eventually ended up never finishing that novel. Instead, I tweaked it and rewrote it into my short story titled Twin Rivers (available here for only $0.99!!).

Last year, there was no way I wanted to participate again because I was overwhelmed working on my Master's degree.

This year, I'm sorta undecided. On one hand, I'm still working on my Master's degree and am very busy. On the other hand, I've got about 8 stories currently in the percolator just waiting for me to write them (and then get around to publishing them). In order to write the 50,000 word goal, I'd have to be able to average about 1,667 words per day, which is no small feat! Especially since I work two part time jobs and am working on my Master's. Then again, it would really help me to get one of these stories out of my head, so I have more room for "smart" stuff like school! ;)

How do all of you feel about NaNoWriMo? Are you participating?

Recommended Read - The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

The Red House Mystery (Dover Mystery Classics)The Red House Mystery by A.A. Milne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I think of A.A. Milne, I think of Winnie the Pooh - but this book is so much better than that! I never knew he had written something outside of children's books until I found this book, and I was pleased with what it had to offer. The book reads like watching a British sitcom mixed with the movie Clue and the Sherlock Holmes books, all wrapped into one. There are several parts that are a bit boring and/or dry, but overall the story is good and it's a solid mystery.

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Recommended Read - Bitten by R.L. Stine

Bitten (Dangerous Girls, #1-2)Bitten by R.L. Stine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I grew up reading R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series, so when I saw his name on a Vampire book I just had to stop and pick it up! This book encompasses two books: Dangerous Girls and Taste of Night. The characters in this anthology are fun and the plot is a new spin on becoming a vampire. It contains the same thrilling amounts of twists and turns that you would expect from R.L.Stine, with an appeal to a teen and adult audience. These stories were fast reads, and I highly recommend them!

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