This Chicks Sunday Commentary: Blah, Blah, Blah, Blogging…

Last year I set a fast and furious pace for myself. I was posting 3 reviews a week, had my Sunday Commentary post and filled in with a few bookish discussions, tags, etc. I religiously posted every other day. I did see my follows rise, but my energy level fell. To keep up that review pace I had to read 4 books a week, write religiously every weekend, and give up a little bit of my life. That second book I wanted to write kept getting pushed back as I slogged through trying to keep up the pace.

burn out

I didn’t want to quit blogging because I really love it! I just wanted to love other things too.

I know there are other bloggers out there who feel the same way I did, so I wanted to share a few things I did to get my life and my blogging back on track.

BACK OFF!– No! Not you guys! Me!! I needed to back down from this frantic pace I had set for myself. I backed down to two reviews a week (Tue and Fri) and made one of them my Friday YA post because a little YA just makes me happy. 🙂 I’ll confess, I do occasionally have three reviews in a week, but it’s usually because I have an Arc I forgot to read and review and I’ll throw one into my schedule to meet that due date.

Goodreads Challenge

Do you all do these Goodreads challenges? Well, I had set myself the challenge of reading 212 books this year. Ummm, not even close. I lowered it to 200 and am still 7 books behind schedule, so I’m just throwing this year out the window. 200 is NOT going to happen and I don’t know what I was thinking!

Aha

I had an AHA! moment- I wanted to show my fellow bloggers some love and approached a couple that I had admired to ask if they would answer a few questions in a new series I had been mulling over in my mind. They said yes, my Blogger to Blogger series was born. I really enjoy getting to know all of the bloggers in our universe and seeing how diverse we are! It’s a fun little series that seems to be taking off and brings joy to my little blog!

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I walked my dog!- This seems like such a small thing, doesn’t it? But getting outside with my dog and my husband starts the day off right. I get to see the neighborhood, enjoy the weather, and get a goofy grin from my baby, Nash. Isn’t he adorable?

Nash pumpkin

Be social! I”m lucky because I live in one of the best cities in the US for concerts, Nashville TN! My husband, who is my best friend and willing participant, has agreed that we must DO THINGS! So I’ve put the book down and started trying to get out of the house and do non bookish things. This helps so much! When I have time to relax and I relish getting back to that book instead of forcing myself to pick it up.

Maroon 5 concert

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Salon@615 at the Nashville Library with Deborah Harkness talking about her newest novel in the Discovery of Witches series.

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The hubs and I at an NFL Titans game.

What did I learn???

Having fun in life means having fun reading and writing again, and yeah, don’t over schedule myself…. that is no fun at all!

Do any of you have the same kinds of problems? What did you do to get yourself back on track?

Thanks for reading! Until next Sunday…

Deb

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This Chicks Sunday Commentary: What? My Review got Blocked?

Google+ has become a very important medium for my blog. I have 2,231 followers nationwide on my page and sometimes when I share my blog posts from The Reading Chick onto my Google+ my views spike tremendously. I haven’t yet figured out a rhythm of what works and what doesn’t, even after 574 posts. However, I see the significance that posting on that medium makes and I take the time to share each post to relevant pages, hoping to spread my bookish words.

If you are curious and want to see my page This Chick Reads, Reviews, Writes and Comments, click HERE.

This past week I had the pleasure of having my review of Kristen Callihan’s novel The Hot Shot blocked on Google+.  I was really surprised! It only said it was blocked due to content, so I have to guess as to why that particular post got chosen out of the 550+ that I have shared on that site?

  • I scanned the review for curse words. Yes, even though I try to keep my review PG-13, every once in awhile I forget and cuss. Nope, no curse words!
  • Did I talk too much about sex? No, actually I only mentioned the two main characters growing relationship. Although I did say the word “firm”. Maybe they misunderstood the context?
  • Was it the title? The Hot Shot, doesn’t seem too salacious. It could refer to a personality trait, a really good businessman, or as in this case a really hot guy. Hmmm. I can’t believe that’s why it would get blocked?
  • Maybe it was the book cover? The Hot Shot does have a good looking man laying face down with a bare chest, slightly arching his back. There is not a woman laying underneath him, and I’ve seen a LOT more books with sexier covers. I actually admired the restraint of the publisher on this one! I think that might even be a yoga pose. Not that I do yoga but isn’t that a plank pose, or something like that?img_1246Really this cover is not any different than a number of other covers with naked male chests, and those reviews made it onto Google+ just fine! (see examples, below).

I am so tempted to just keep adding and see if I can get it blocked again! But, you get my point. They are all pretty much the same, aren’t they? With the exception of The Hot Shot laying face down. Maybe that is too suggestive.

Anyway, here’s my question to you! Have you ever had one of your reviews blocked for content? Or for another reason?

I’m curious! Please let me know.

Until next Sunday,

Deb

Oh! If you want to read my review of The Hot Shot. Click HERE!

 

 

This Chicks Sunday Commentary: A Mother’s Love for Books

Mother’s Day is one day in the year that we set aside to specifically celebrate, honor, and love our mothers. Yes, we do love our mother’s every day but we don’t always remember to tell them that we love them. I am not a mother myself, unless you count my dog and cat as children, but I do have a special place in my heart for my own mom. After all, she is the reason why I love books as much as I do!

My love of classic musicals came from watching them with my mother on Saturday afternoons at a really young age. I fell in love with Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz and their dancing and singing down that yellow brick road. My mother decorated my room in red gingham (yes, I know Dorothy’s dress was blue!) and started giving me copies of all of the Oz books by Frank L. Baum. I still have some of them sitting in my bookcase.

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She would read these books to me at night starting my long love of fantasy novels and transporting myself to other magical worlds. I had an older brother and sister who were reading “older” books and soon began asking for her to read books I knew they were reading like Robert Jordan and J. R. R Tolkien. She read the Hobbit to me every night for a year, a memory that lingers with me. I can hear Golem’s “precious” in my own mothers voice. In 1990 my mother gave me a bound copy of The Hobbit because she also loved that same memory.

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I can envision trips to the library with my mom where I would check out 5 books at a time. I had a small bookcase built into my closet that was filled with library books. A precursor to today’s book filled shelves and kindle! I have since wondered how often my mom had to pay the late fee’s on those books. I can’t remember returning them, although I’m certain we must’ve, but I can certainly remember the wonder of checking them out and the greed of having them awaiting me on my shelf.

Today, I am honoring my mother for showing me her love for books and passing that love on. She may have come to regret it because I am always asking her if she’s read such and such and what did she think, or pushing a new favorite into her hands. I think my mother should feel proud because she did such a great job in passing on that love. So, I want to say “Thanks Mom”! My life wouldn’t be the same without my journey through Oz and Rivendell. I’ve followed my own yellow brick road and it leads to a mountain of books that I have yet to read. When you’re ready to talk about that next book, you know where to find me…

XOXO and much love!

Discussion: What books did your own mother read to you? Do you have any special Mother’s Day book memories to share?

Until next Sunday,

Debs

fullsizerender-3 My mom.

This Chicks Sunday Commentary: This blogger’s musings about blogging

Recently I’ve thought a lot about why I started my blog. Originally I just wanted to talk about the books I was reading and maybe connect with someone who has read that same book and have a conversation. I was amazed that anyone even answered a question I asked or followed my blog. It was so much fun! My husband and family were probably thrilled because I stopped asking them if they’d read “that” book yet.  But, at some point over the last two and a half years I have gotten away from my original reason for blogging. The magic of talking about it with other people who have read the same book!blur-book-browse-256546.

Why have I gotten away from it? Well, besides having a full time job, trying to spend quality time with my husband and family, I guess the real reason is greed. LOL Really, it is so easy to get seduced by the books on NetGalley or Edelweiss. I can go on NetGalley and get lost for hours and before I know it I’ve requested 20 books that all have the same release date. Aarghhh!!! That’s the worst. Recently, I’ve tried really hard to cut back on requesting books and when I do, it’s usually to request from authors I really like or to read and possibly finish a book in a series I’ve started. Although I will say that when two or three authors books release in the same month or on the same day it can still get tricky. At times my brain goes into book overload, kind of like the whirlpool of books below.

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I also have a HUGE stack of physical books sitting in my shelves that are going unread. Some of which I don’t want to review, I just want to enjoy, you know? Lately though I feel like I need to review every book just so that I am putting out a post. It would be so easy to just let it slide and I really don’t want to!  The connections I’ve made with my fellow bloggers are fun, interesting, and keep my brain invested in something I really want to do. Have a conversation about books. How do I find that happy medium?

Here is my vow to, well, myself really, because I can’t imagine you all care about these musings… My vow is to read what I want to read, when I want to read it. Blog hop and join in on discussions with you guys, because, well, that’s part of the fun isn’t it? Write reviews because that’s what I really love to do, and hopefully inspire you all to interject with some comments.  I feel better already! Sometimes you just need to lay down the law with yourself. LOL.

Anyway, this is what was in my head this morning as I sat down to write. What’s going on in your own?

How do you all keep yourselves going?

I am always amazed at the hard work most of you put into putting out great content and discussions almost daily. How do you do think of all of these topics? Find the time to put in pretty graphics and pictures? That’s probably a topic for another day… 🙂

Until next Sunday,

Deb

This Chicks Sunday Commentary: Does the Weather Outside Affect Your Book Choice?

It’s April, but a lot of the US is still feeling the effects of winter. Luckily in Nashville the temperatures may be cold, but we are not seeing the snow the Midwest and Northeast are getting. Nashville is just getting a ton of rain. I hope wherever you live, you are seeing a true spring, instead of the bi polar temperatures we have been seeing in our country!

The wonderful thing about reading a book is that it is enjoyable in any type of weather! So hunker down under a blanket, or enjoy that beach you are laying on and start the next chapter. This is a great segway into what I want to talk about today.

Does a change in weather affect our book reviews? Or at least the books we pick to review? My first inclination is to say yes. After all, our moods are affected by a long winter, right? Those of you getting snowstorms on April 8th are probably about to be the star of your own mystery novel right about now!  But seriously, are we more apt to love mysteries in the winter and romance novels in the summer? Or do we like to read summertime romances in the winter and dark mysteries in the summer? Of course, it’s all subjective because every reader is different. I can only tell you my own habits, and unfortunately they aren’t that clear cut!

I love the lighthearted vacation books that come out in the summer. Yeah, yeah, I’m generalizing. Of course, serious bestselling novels are also released for those who may have time to read while on their vacation, but I like getting away from reality and love a get away novel with a hero and heroine I can root to find their HEA. I don’t want to read a 500 page family saga. I like the feeling of completion you get when you can read a 350 page novel in a few days.

In the winter I have more patience because I’m at home in the evenings hunkering down with my mug of hot chocolate. I have the attention span to read a mystery or longer fantasy novel, maybe even that bestselling fiction novel everyone is talking about. (OK probably not, but I wanted to make myself sound more intellectual…) Do publishers take all of these feelings into account when they plan a release? I really don’t know, but I would think so!

Now that you know what types of books I like to read at a certain time of year, has this made you think of your own habits? We book bloggers can be moody as hell. Is that in some part due to the weather?

What do you like to read in the winter, spring, summer and fall? Does it matter? Does the weather make you pick a certain book to read? Please share your comments below, I really would like to know!

Until next Sunday,

Deb

This Chicks Sunday Commentary: Young Adults Save the World

The other day I finished reading a Young Adult book that I felt was kind of well, average. The writing was good, the scenes were set pretty well, but there was just something that bothered me about the plot. It was a contemporary ya action novel that seemed to be inspired by the Jason Bourne spy movies. It was fun, it was well written, but why didn’t it connect with me? I did also have trouble emotionally connecting with the hero, but I really think it’s because I didn’t believe it.It didn’t connect because the world this seventeen year old lives in could be my own world. I had to fight my own reality and couldn’t immerse myself completely into the story.

Is that why it’ easier to accept a 17 year old saving the world or falling in love when it’s a Fantasy novel?  

Absolutely! Why?

  1. World building: When I read V. E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series, or Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series, I didn’t have time to stop and question the logistics, emotional capacity, training, and fortitude of the main characters. I was too busy immersing myself in the world they were building. Trying to figure out the schematics of jumping Londons distracted me from scoffing at such a young person single handedly saving her race. (yeah, I mixed the plots a bit to prove my point, but you get the drift.)
  2. Magic: It may be a tired trope, but if our hero or heroine has a magical power, that power trumps how old they are. 17? Pshaw! This girl can fling lightening out of her hands! This guy is a billionaire who has created a virtual reality game that is taking over the world! When he/she uses that power to save herself, her friends, or the world… well, I’m all in! I don’t even stop to think twice about it! Of course, not all powers are used for good, but point made.
  3. The power of love: I am not going to say that love can’t conquer all because love changes people and makes them view life differently. Love is life changing, but is that power of love more believable when it’s a 17 year old girl who turns into a dragon or a seventeen year old girl late for class in high school? Well, I’m intrigued by this girl who turns into a dragon and will be more willing to overlook her age than the girl I envision as myself in a high school setting.  The comparison to myself makes me remember all of her life that remains in front of her. I’m a little more skeptical that she may have found the love of her life at 17 than that she turns into a dragon. Weird, right?
  4. Fight experience: I’m speaking VERY generally, but I believe the percentage of 17 year old’s in the real world who have the fighting skills to overcome terrorists are pretty slim. However, in a fantasy setting where sword skills are learned by the age 10, and of course there are those magic powers  they can use (!), I can believe the storytelling for that world. After all, it’s not my own world, it’s make believe.

teen super hero's

You get the point. So, here’s the dilemma. How do you write a YA novel, set in the world we are living in, where it’s believable for the main protagonist to have the skills, knowledge and fortitude to save the day, fall in love and otherwise be a hero that is believable?

How do you review that book and not let your own opinions (yes, maybe even disbelief) of that story reflect in your review? Or do you let it affect your review?

I’d like to hear your opinion!

Until next Sunday,

Deb

p.s. I am in no way saying that a 17 year old can’t save the world, only that it is more believable in a Fantasy novel. There are amazing young people out there who love this world and will hopefully keep helping save it. This post was a silly way for me to procrastinate writing a review about a teen spy that saved his school. Back to it!

 

This Chicks Sunday Commentary: Book Blogging Pro’s and Con’s

My blog, The Reading Chick, is now almost two and a half years old. Wow, where did the time go?!!

Initially I started blogging because I wanted to talk about all of the books I read. When I first started blogging all of my book choices were what I was drawn to read. As time went on I started following authors Facebook pages and twitter accounts, sometimes reaching out to let them know I’ve read and liked a book. Even making friends (of sorts) with some of them, joining review clubs and Facebook discussions, etc. Then I discovered NetGalley. Like many bloggers I went out of control. All of those books, free!!! All I had to do was write a review and post it on my blog, Amazon and wherever. When I couldn’t keep up, I had to reign myself in, stopping those requests until I honored the commitments I had made. Although I’ll confess, there were a few books that I just couldn’t get into and just sent a note back to the publisher saying I was sorry but I wasn’t going to be able to review the book. I felt so bad!

Once I was back in control I asked myself why I was doing this? The pressure of putting out a blog a few times a week can be another full time job, and one that doesn’t even make me any money. Is it worth it? I decided to make a list of my Pro’s and Con’s of being a book blogger to help me decide my feelings.

PRO’s

  • I read at least two hours a day. On weekends sometimes 4-5 hours. At 50 pages an hour I get through 2-4 books a week. The point is, I read A LOT.
  • I love to write. I get a really great feeling when I craft my post. Not all of my reviews are great, but some of them are really really good. When an author take one of my quotes and tweets it at me? Wow, there’s no better feeling.
  • I have made friends in the blogging community that I can discuss my passion for books with? How cool is that? Something I have in common with hundreds, if not thousands of other bloggers!
  • FREE BOOKS. I have a few authors that I jones for. If you know me well, you know I love Urban Fantasy authors like Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs and Anne Bishop and romance authors like Jill Shalvis and Kristen Ashley. If I can read them free? Bonus!
  • Helping authors get the word out about a new book. Although this can also be a Con because they don’t hit a home run EVERY time they write a book, but still, I do love supporting them and seeing other bloggers talk about those same books.
  • Reading a review about a book that I’ve already read and reviewed myself. I LOVE this! I love writing a note about what I liked or disliked. I love opening up that conversation.
  • I love that I seem to be on a couple of publisher’s lists to send out notes asking me to read a novel because I’ve read and reviewed a similar novel for them. It makes me feel special.
  • Reading my fellow bloggers posts. I love to find new books that you all recommend as well as chime in on some great discussions.

CONS

  • Keeping up with my blog schedule. I put out three reviews a week and on Sunday I try to be more creative. Either a discussion, interview, or well, anything besides a review. It is HARD to come up with good ideas!
  • Book review requests. I would love to help discover that next great novelist. It is hard to find the time!! Lately, I’ve started to get about 5-10 book review requests per week. Does everyone else get these too? How do you handle them? I try to respond to everyone thanking them for sending me their letter and I so want to support them, but I am only one person reading and just don’t have as much time as I’d need to get through them all.
  • Not getting carried away on NetGalley. It’s so easy! I have my favorite authors, and sometimes they all have publishing dates close to one another. It makes life difficult when I’m a day away from their release date and I haven’t read the book yet. I know, they’re my favorite. I should read it as soon as I get it, but I don’t. I try to honor all of my commitments, so soonest date published gets read first. When they stack up? It freaks me out.  LOL
  • Sometimes I just don’t want to write a review but with the need to put out three a week I feel like I have to write one. I know that reviews mean a lot to an author, especially on site’s like Amazon where they get ranked and show up in more recommendations the more reviews they have listed, either good or bad. It’s the thought that I should write one that makes writing difficult.
  • I have a full time job. Occasionally I write during the week, but the majority of my writing gets done on the weekend. So, that’s 2-4 posts I have to write in two days. The first one goes down like a fine wine, and then it gets less sweet and more acidic.
  • Finding the time to keep up with commenting on other blogs. I love having that conversation, but there are some weeks where I just don’t get to it. I feel like I’m letting people down.

I could throw a couple more Pro’s and Con’s onto the list, however, I think these help you get my point. There are many great things about blogging. That’s why I keep doing it! There are also a lot of things that weigh me down when it comes to blogging. However, I do think that the Pro’s out weigh the Con’s. It all comes down to the fact that I like to read and I like to write. Now that I’ve started could I stop? I think I would miss it too much! I would miss you all too much too.

Do you have some of the same Pro’s and Con’s on your list? How do you handle the sacrifice you make to write daily or spend your weekend writing like I do?

How do you keep your commitments to put out a review as the book comes out? Do you fall behind? Not care? Are you always on time?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next Sunday,

Deb

Book meme

This Chick’s Christmas Wishes

It’s a cold dreary Christmas Eve in Nashville, TN. A perfect day to be at home on the couch wrapped in a blanket reading. Not me! I was dashing about town buying last minute Christmas gifts in advance of company coming over for dinner tonight. I’m looking forward to this evening when everyone is in bed to get that hour to myself to relax and read the next few chapters of the book, my husband and dog lightly snoring next to me.

In the midst of the final countdown to Santa coming tonight I took a moment to capture this year’s photo of my baby boy.  Well, my baby Goldendoodle dog, Nash. I wanted to share the moment with you and wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Festivus and any other holiday you may be celebrating.

Nash Christmas 2017

The importance of the day is not the gifts we all receive but the family with whom we will be celebrating. My thoughts and prayers are with those of you who have lost a loved one this year and whose celebration may be a little less light. The sky will be a little brighter tonight with one more star.

Until next Sunday,

Happy Holidays!

Deb

This Chicks Sunday Commentary: Christmas Book Tree’s

I was in Columbia, TN this week wandering around their downtown and wandered my way into a bookstore. Funny how that happens!  What drew me in was this beautiful Christmas book tree in the window of the store. (I’ll be honest, the books did too!)

Book TreeI took a picture and turned to the guy at the counter and asked him how many books it took to make this tree. He said “I dunno.” Very disappointing answer! I can’t imagine I’m the first person to walk into the store and ask that question. Anyway, I took a picture and marveled at how high it stood, wondering if I had enough books at home to make one.  I probably do, but it would leave my bookshelves absolutely empty! As well as the thought of putting all of those books back on the shelves persuaded me to not build a tree quite that large.

I went home and started googling Christmas Book Tree’s and found that it doesn’t really matter the size. Here are some of my favorite’s.

Book Tree 2

I kind of want the big round room to put this one in, too! How fabulous!

Book Tree 3

Here is a little desktop tree. I love the look of it, but I’m cringing at bending all of those bindings!  I love the size though!

Book Tree 4

I love this idea because you don’t need a big room. Just a wall to stack your books against and a little festive garland!

Book Tree 5

Then you have your color coordinated books mini tree. It sits nicely on an end table and has a star on top. Love, Love, Love!  I’m positive I can do this one!

Off I go to create my little book tree. Have any of you created a book tree? Care to share how big, or what you picked for your theme? Did you stack? Create a circle?

I hope your holiday season is happy, festive and bright!

Merry Christmas-

Deb

postnote: I was inspired to create my own mini tree. What do you think?

This Chicks Sunday Commentary: What is your Passion?

I know this headline caught your eye! What in the world is Deborah talking about? I know, I know, we all have likes. I like taking walks on cool fall days watching my dog hunt for squirrels. I like sitting on the couch next to my husband, holding his hand while we watch a tv show. I like having dinner with my family and wondering at the random subject changes and how we got from point A to point B in the conversation. I could go on and on about my likes. My world is filled with Deborah likes…

What is your Passion is an interesting question isn’t it? For some people their passion is their faith, for others their passion may be their jobs or family. If we were to take away the obvious- no husbands, wives, family, god, food. As much as i love chocolate, no that isn’t a passion! Passion is what is in your gut. What makes you thrive for life?

It won’t come as a secret to any of you but my passion is discovering a special book. A book that takes you completely by surprise and makes you think! I spoke with the founder of a website for authors called Reedsy. There’s a section on this website with a list of book review bloggers and The Reading Chick is on this list. (whee!) When he and I were talking he asked me what percentage of books have I given five stars to.. I thought about it and really, haven’t a clue but figure it must be somewhere around 20-25%. I have very few books that I review below three stars because I want to honor the work an author puts into producing that book.  So that percentage may be higher. There should be a sixth star for books I feel passionate about and believe it or not, there haven’t been that many. But there have definitely been a few.

Let’s get back to that question though, What is your Passion? My passion is to find that one great book. The one that catches me by surprise and that I can’t wait to tell my friends and family about, the one where our conversation makes you curious, makes you hit that on click buy button.

What is your Passion? I would love to hear it! I know you love your kids, wives, husbands, and of course, god. What is your passion?  Shout it out!  Or, just put it in the comments below. I want to hear it.

Until next Sunday!

Deb