Dividing Eden ★★★★☆

diving-eden.jpgBEHOLD! FOR I HAVE FINALLY FINISHED THIS BOOK! And it was amazing.

Twins Carys and Andreus were never destined to rule Eden. With their older brother next in line to inherit the throne, the future of the kingdom was secure.

But appearances—and rivals—can be deceiving. When Eden’s king and crown prince are killed by assassins, Eden desperately needs a monarch, but the line of succession is no longer clear. With a ruling council scheming to gain power, Carys and Andreus are faced with only one option—to take part in a Trial of Succession that will determine which one of them is worthy of ruling the kingdom.

As sister and brother, Carys and Andreus have always kept each other safe—from their secrets, from the court, and from the monsters lurking in the mountains beyond the kingdom’s wall. But the Trial of Succession will test the bonds of trust and family.

With their country and their hearts divided, Carys and Andreus will discover exactly what each will do to win the crown. How long before suspicion takes hold and the thirst for power leads to the ultimate betrayal?

House of Furies ★★★★★

houseoffuries.jpgRoux uses language like Austen and plots like Brontë. House of Furies is simply amazing and if you think it isn’t up your alley-you’re wrong. Do not smile. Do not frown. Do not, under any circumstances, put this book down.

After escaping a harsh school where punishment was the lesson of the day, seventeen-year-old Louisa Ditton is thrilled to find employment as a maid at a boarding house. But soon after her arrival at Coldthistle House, Louisa begins to realize that the house’s mysterious owner, Mr. Morningside, is providing much more than lodging for his guests. Far from a place of rest, the house is a place of judgment, and Mr. Morningside and his unusual staff are meant to execute their own justice on those who are past being saved.

Louisa begins to fear for a young man named Lee who is not like the other guests. He is charismatic and kind, and Louisa knows that it may be up to her to save him from an untimely judgment. But in this house of distortions and lies, how can Louisa be sure whom to trust?

Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora ★★★★☆

25226215.jpgDefinitely one of my favorite pieces featuring a second language since Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost.

Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?

For Arturo, summetime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of Jose Marti.

Formatting Your Posts: Part 1

Thus far you’ve put together some posts on your own, made some fancy images for them, and scheduled them for some date in the future. Now let’s clean it all up.

This… will be my most catty post about blogging. I have many visual preferences and coming from a new media background certainly does not help my snobbery, so I’d like to apologize to all the people I’m about to offend.

Images

Let’s get this out of the way: DO. NOT. JUST. PLOP. YOUR. IMAGES. IN . YOUR. POSTS. WITHOUT. ALIGNING. THEM. PLEASE. AND. THANK YOU.

There is nothing more aggravating to me than people who just plop photos down in their posts without a care of how it all looks after it’s published.

Case in point.

It's not always abouttrying to fix somethingthat's broken.Whelp! There it is. Just sitting on the side of the post, breaking up the text.

And it bugs me to no end.

So let’s talk about moving these images around so that you can have a cleaner looking product.

Scheduling Content

If you think for a second that I wake up in the morning and type up and post my blogs at exactly 8am on the dot–you are–incredibly–wrong. All of my posts are scheduled, let me repeat that:

ALL. OF. MY. POSTS. ARE. SCHEDULED.

Reviews, book tags, TBRs, recaps, updates, all of it. All scheduled. In fact, I’m just re-scheduling this entire series while I’m busy in my semester so that my blog doesn’t die down in terms of content.

Every December I run 25 Days of BookRecs. It’s a post a day for 25 days straight. It’s wonderful. My blog runs itself while I take a little break.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Scheduling your posts for the morning means they’ll already be up for you to schedule social media posts.
  • Scheduling posts for the morning also gives you more time to garner views.
  • Scheduling helps you to keep a steady schedule and also lets you stay ahead of the game. A few bulk days of drafting posts will make for a few easy months in which you can add more timely posts in between what you already have scheduled.
  • Reviews should be scheduled as soon as you finish so that the review goes up within 2 weeks of the book’s publication date.

On any blogging platform, you can schedule your post under post settings. For example, on WordPress, the schedule settings are on the right at the top of the drafting page; on Tumblr, they are beneath the post.

I try to fill out my months with at least 2 posts a week so that I can keep to a relatively steady posting schedule. Again, I highly recommend posting at least once a week when you start and building up to more.

There are many types of posts which can be anytime posts that you can use to fill out your schedule. I keep a running master list here. Take a quick look at it and then check back next week when I talk about formatting your posts.

Episode #32: An Interview with Chelsea Sedoti

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http://bookedallnight.podbean.com/e/episode-32-an-interview-with-chelsea-sedoti/

Listen to this episode and other episodes of the podcast on Podbean.

It’s interview central around here this month! Joining us this week is Chelsea Sedoti, author of The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett and the recently released As You Wish. We had a wonderful discussion about anxiety and writing and how we all handle the pressure.

Your First Book Review

The time has come for your first review! Hooray! It’s time to tell the world how you felt about that book. Did you laugh? Did you cry? Did you feel… nothing? All very important. I have a few rules about reviews that I think most, if not all, newbie book bloggers should listen to:

Reviewing Etiquette

#1 Do Not Insult The Team

A lot of work goes into a book, even the bad ones. There is no reason to attack the author, the editors, the cover artist, or the company. Period.

#2 Say It Professionally

Even if you hated every aspect of the book, there is a professional way to present that. There is no reason to say things like “it belongs in the trash,” and if you feel the need to say that period, refer to rule #1.

#3 Be Honest and Kind

Bit of a blend from #1 and #2. Don’t lie and say that you enjoyed the book when you clearly didn’t. No one is asking you to lie about your opinion. But be clear about what bothered you or bored you without being insulting.

Writing Out Your Thoughts

I see a lot of first reviews that come out sounding like a book report. Book reviews are not book reports. You can sum up the plot with the back copy and move straight into your review.

My reviews tend to be a little formulaic, as do most bloggers’. It tends to follow as such:

  • An overall statement about your feelings on the book
  • A summary/the back copy (which you can copy from GoodReads)
  • What you liked
  • What you didn’t like

Remember to be specific about both what you did and did not like. There is a difference between “I liked the setting” and “I liked the island setting” and “I liked the fantasy isle and how vivid the author’s description was of the plants and wildlife.”

Starring System

Most bloggers use a starring system. Some bloggers make their own images for their stars (or popsicles, or owls, or glasses of wine, etc) but I prefer to use emojis/symbols in my post so that I know it will show up on every device. Specifically, I use these: ★☆½.

Obviously, your view of what deserves four and five stars may differ from mine but here are my criteria for my reviews.

☆☆☆☆☆

Well this was just terrible and highly problematic. I found little to nothing of merit in it.

★☆☆☆☆

Also terrible, but I found one or two things which worked well. Most of the time, when I give a one star review, I usually enjoyed what they were trying to do but found the execution done poorly.

★★☆☆☆

One or two things caught my eye but much of this book was problematic. I may have enjoyed the ideas but not the writing or set-up.

★★★☆☆

Only a few problems and otherwise a good and compelling read. The bulk of my reviews tend to be three stars. Many bloggers fall here with a “I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it” sort of mentality.

★★★★☆

I definitely recommend reading this book! It was really good and you should give it a chance. You will love it if you love X genre.

★★★★★

Everyone needs to read this book. I don’t care who you are, pick it up and devour it.

Some bloggers break their reviews up into sections and star multiple points of the book including:

  • Cover Art
  • Opening
  • Ending
  • Characters
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Couldn’t Put It Down-ness
  • Intellectual Depths

Personally, I think one rating is enough, but it’s really up to you and what you like about the books.

Episode #31: An Interview with MarcyKate Connolly

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http://bookedallnight.podbean.com/e/episode-31-an-interview-with-marcykate-connolly/

Listen to this episode and other episodes of the podcast on Podbean.

This super special (totes late but you’ll love it) episode we were joined by none other than MarcyKate Connolly, author of Shadow Weaver, Monstrous, Ravenous, and more! If you’re unfamiliar with her work we highly recommend Shadow Weaver. You can, of course, listen to us gush over it in Episode #25 (which we also recommend).

Join us as we talk about middle grade literature, writing, Shadow Weaver, and play a little game of Burn, Re-write, Re-Read.

Requesting ARCs

Everyone loves reading books before they come out! I know I do! But how do we book bloggers get our hands on advanced reader copies? Let me count the ways.

#1 NetGalley/Edelweiss and Other Services

NetGalley, Edelweiss, First to Read, Bookish First and many other programs offer a way for you to get an e-galley of the book before publication. It will be delivered to your kindle or nook for your reading pleasure. Because you are getting a galley, chances are there will be mistakes in the copy, so try not to hold them against the book when you review it.

#2 Conventions

I attend BookCon every year and run around to the many booths to get my grubby little hands on advanced copies. When you get a physical ARC, they have information for who to contact with a review and when to post it on the back cover. Which brings us to the next way to get an ARC.

#3 Contact the Publisher/Agent

As you review more you will make contacts with publishers, agents, and authors. You can reach out to them to request specific copies of books. I personally request from Sourcebooks, HarperCollins, and the New Leaf Literary Agency. I have made these contacts at conventions.

Feature Images

Let’s talk images! Every post should have one! You heard me. One. Yes, there are exceptions and personal preferences so let’s just dive right in.

Feature Images

Feature Images are great! They are the first image people see for your post. You can see mine for this series right at the top of this post! You also probably saw it in your reader, twitter feed, or facebook feed. You said, “Oh! Jessica has a new informative post up! I should click that!”

Would you have clicked if there was just a grey box? Or just the logo on my site?

Probably not.

There are many tools online to make images for your blog. I highly recommend Canva.com. They have many templates, sizes, images, fonts, and plenty of tools for you to create eye catching material for your blog.

Every template has a different size for its features. It might be a perfect square, it might be 800×500 pixels. You can check this in most media/customization settings on most platforms.