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May 26, 2012

Audio Books for Summer Road Trips

This weekend kicks off the start of summer for those of us in the U.S. Growing up, my family took trips by car. My mother refuses to fly. I think the longest trip was the one to Pennsylvania - 16 hours straight through. While I always packed books, we often traveled at night to avoid traffic. Audio books weren't as easy to come then either (I'm older than I look).

I've listened to several great audio books lately and since they were for formal review, I thought I would just give you a run down of them. There is something for everyone and I was able to get them at the digital download library.

For Families:

13 Gifts (11 Birthdays #3) by Wendy Mass
audio book
Published October 2011 by Scholastic
ISBN13: 9780545354073
Listened May 2012
Get it: Goodreads, IndieBound, Powell's Books, Amazon

I really like listening to YA books. They are fun and do not take a lot of concentration (since I usually listen while at work this is an important factor). I was not familiar with Wendy Mass, but I liked the cover and the description sounded good. And it definitely was a great listen. I think this is something the whole family will enjoy listening to while in the car. It won't be distracting to the driver, but will give extra family time. If your trip is quite long, you can pick up the first 2 books in audio as well. 

I enjoyed the bit of mystery that was woven through this coming of age tale. I have not read or listened to the previous books in the series. I don't think it is absolutely necessary to, but reading the first two will give you back story on the other characters in the story.

For road trips with your girlfriends or women in your family:

The Friday Night Knitting Club (Book 1) by Kate Jacobs
audio book, narrator Carrington MacDuffie
Published June 2007 by Blackstone Audio
ISBN13: 9781433283796
Listened May 2012
Get it:  Goodreads, IndieBound, Powell's Books, Amazon


Are you planning a trip with your girlfriends this summer or perhaps mothers, daughters, and sisters are traveling together? This would make a great listen. A group of women of different ages and different backgrounds find each other among the warm wools and cool cottons of Walker & Daughter Yarn Shop. While each comes to the shop for different reasons, they are looking for the same thing. Camaraderie, acceptance, direction. By working through a sweater pattern, these ladies who never would have met otherwise become close friends. There are laughs, but also tears along the way as each muddle there way through not only the pattern but also their lives. Learning mistakes don't end the project and lending support and aid to each other when life gets too tough to handle alone. 


I don't like to do spoilers, but I must caution if you get emotional while reading it would be best not to listen to chapters 31 to the end while driving. 


For mixed company:


The First Patient by Michael Palmer
audio book, narrator Phil Gigante
Published February 2008 by Brilliance Audio
Listened April 2012
Get it: Goodreads, IndieBound, Powell's Books, Amazon


I'm always hesitant to listen to mysteries. I worry I'll either miss something crucial or get so involved in the story I can't focus on my work. The First Patient was a great mystery audio book. I was intrigued enough to keep listening and there was repetition (which had I been reading the book, would have driven my mad) so that I didn't have to be fully engaged. 


There is a little bit of everything in the book that should appeal to both guys and gals. It could also provide conversation topics when you stop for meals or the night. While it seems like a straight forward political mystery, an unexpected turn is taken towards the end. I can assure you the butler didn't do it!

For other audio books I've reviewed click here.

Your turn: I know I have several people here who regularly listen to audio books, what are your recommendations for filling the long hours in a car?

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May 25, 2012

Friday Fun: Round Up & more

It's finally Friday. Did you make it through the week? I'm in the U.S. and so glad to be having a 3-day weekend. I'm in the south and it is predicted to be a hot one. The pool is ready and so am I.

It was a busy week on Girl Who Reads with a number of guest posts. I hope you read them all, but if not you can jump over there now (if you are in the US or Canada, make sure you enter to win Jillian Medoff's  I Couldn't Love You More).

Heather Huffman
Jillian Medoff
Lori Hettler

I also blogged over at Book Bloggers' Collaborative this week and I have a post on Athens Patch for summer reading.

Tomorrow, I'm going to have a special Saturday post with a round up of audio books I've been listening to. Since summer travel season officially kicks off this weekend I thought I'd share some great audio finds that will keep you entertained on those long drives.

Since it's Friday, Crazy for Books has a new hop questions up. Make sure you click on the graphic below to see how others answered the question.


Book Blogger Hop
How do you handle negative reviews?

Every blogger hates to give a negative review, but sometimes it is necessary. As a relatively positive person, I always try to find something good to say about the book. Then I will go on to explain why the book didn't work for me. I'm smart enough to know that just because I didn't like it doesn't mean there isn't someone who will like it. I try to be objective, determine if it was a bad book or if it just wasn't my cup of tea. If it isn't my thing, I attempt to determine who the book would better appeal to and include that in my review.

Have a great weekend!


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May 24, 2012

Tips on Thursday: Goodreads Groups

It is guest post week on Girl Who Reads. Last week, when I working on my Goodreads post I realized I didn't really know enough about groups to providing really useful information. I asked my friend, fellow blogger, and Goodreads Group Genius, Lori of The Next Best Book Club to share her experience being a super moderator. She has some really great tips and it made me want to start a group, I just need to find the time. So without further ado, here's Lori...

Goodreads: A Blogger’s Playground

If you’ve been a part of the book community for more than… oh… five minutes, you’ve most likely heard of Goodreads.com. It’s the largest “social cataloging” website out there, created specifically for book lovers to share and recommend their favorite reads with one another.

Believe it or not, that’s where TNBBC (The Next Best Book Club) got its start. Back in 2007, I had no idea what book blogging was, let alone the fact that it even existed! I simply had a burning desire to discuss books and Goodreads was an excellent and addictive outlet for that.

Fast forward nearly 5 years later and here I sit, blogging about the self and indie published world of literature, reviewing advanced copies of the books that everyone else will purchase 3 or 4 months from now, having daily conversations with some of my favorite authors and publishers… Ahhh… this is the bookish life!

But I never forsake my goodreads group. In fact, TNBBC has benefited incredibly through the use of both the blog and the goodreads group, in ways that it might not have if I had only used one and not the other.

Of course, I am coming at this backwards. I started on goodreads, where most of you started as book bloggers. So let’s talk about why I think every book blogger should have a goodreads group:


Reasons to Start a Goodreads Group:

The Bookshelves. Who doesn’t love organizing and displaying all of the books they have read, want to read, and want to buy? Goodreads allows you to shelve books by category on your personal profile page, recommend them to your friends and members, as well as display them on your group’s bookshelf and homepage. This allows for maximum exposure and share-ability.

The Threads. Oh yes. The threads. I like the layout and flexibility of the discussions threads on goodreads much better than the comment sections on our blogs – which are clunky and extremely limited. The threads and folder systems allow you to keep conversations going forever, they are easily accessible, and would be perfect for storing a running tab of your bloggish meme’s.


The Group Reads. Goodreads is the ideal place to host group reads. You can set up a nomination thread, compile nominations into an easy-to-use poll, open a discussion thread and you’re off and running…


The Community. Well, of course, as book bloggers, we are all about community! Through goodreads, though, you have the potential to tap into an unlimited resource of non-bloggers who love to read just as much as you do! Plus, your members can experience your blog on a whole new level by sharing content and common interests amongst each other, independent of your most recent blog post.


The Authors and Publishers are there too! Don’t miss out on the additional connection if you are like me, and thrive on publisher/author interaction. So many different ways to sprinkle this into your group and expose your non-blogging members to all aspects of the literary world.

It all gets tied back into your blog! When handled right, your goodreads group drives traffic back to you. And your blog drives traffic back to your group. It’s a win-win situation when you think about it.

Does this sound like something you might be interested in starting up? Not sure how much time it’s going to take, or if you want the additional responsibility?

Managing a Goodreads Group – From Seed to Full Fledged Flower:

In order to create a successful goodreads group, you have to be willing to put some time in up front. With the right amount of attention and well focused love, your little seedling will set strong roots and blossom almost all on its own.

Well, something like that, anyway.

Your goodreads group should share your blog’s brand. Once you’re up and running, feel free to expand your group to encompass all aspects of the book world, but in the beginning I think it helps to have a specific area of focus or identity. What does your blog specialize in – YA? Classics? Works written by female authors? That’s where I would start. Make sure the groups focus is clear and that the threads you create and the books you shelve reflect that focus.


Set group guidelines right from the start. How do you want your members to behave within the group? Can anyone add a book to the group’s bookshelf? Are your members allowed to post threads to promote their own websites/blogs/giveaways? How will you address and handle rule breakers? These things should all be clearly defined somewhere within the group where your members can locate them easily.

Encourage participation and self policing. Let your members know that it’s totally ok for them to create threads and stir up discussions on topics that relate to your group’s theme. Invite new members to introduce themselves in a special “new member” thread so everyone can welcome them. Enable them to self-police. This has been a huge help to me within TNBBC. In the beginning you’re going to want to be a very visible and active presence. But over time, you should encourage the long term members to call out issues. Since I can’t be logged in every minute of the day, checking every single thread and comment with a fine toothed comb, I let my members know that they should report any abuse or obvious rule breaking to me via private message. Then, as I grew more confident in their ability to self-police, and they felt they could defuse the situation, they began to correct the unappreciated behavior on their own.

Have fun! Remember that the group is supposed to be an extension of your blog. Do some fun things within the group that you wouldn’t be able to do on your blog… play literary games, have members post photos of their bookshelves or favorite reading spots. Have interactive interviews where your members can ask questions to an author, rather than those stuffy ole question and answer interviews we post on our blogs.

Man, if I knew then what I know now … remember, TNBBC branched out into blogging two years after it was an established community on goodreads. There were many things I didn’t handle well in its early years.

I wasn’t prepared for the “spam” threads that would appear from unknown authors who wanted to spread the word about their books. So I let my silly side get the best of me and I created a “Spammers Circle of Hell” folder, banishing all offending posts there, where members were allowed to tease and poke at the offender. At the time, I thought my group rules were clear and my members were having fun, but it wasn’t fair to the author. (I hadn’t begun to build relationships with authors the way I did later on. And I think most
of the authors I tormented have eventually forgiven me!)

I quickly smartened up and realized that these authors were just as clueless about how goodreads worked as I was when I had first joined. So I changed my tactic and would reach out to them privately to explain how I run my group and the importance of becoming familiar with group rules before posting…

All in all, if you’re willing to put in the time and energy up front, a goodreads group can become your blog’s best friend! It’s full of untapped potential. Go on and give it a shot!


Lori Hettler is the indie lovin’ mastermind behind The Next Best Book Blog. She started blogging in 2009 after her goodreads group took on a life of its own. TNBBC continues to be one of the largest, most active groups on goodreads.com. As if moderating a group and blogging about independent authors, publishers, and books weren't enough... TNBBC can also be found hanging out on Facebook (hating on the new page layout), Twitter (rubbing elbows with indie literaries), YouTube (uploading awesome book trailers and author readings), Tumblr (currently on my back-burner list, something had to give!), and Google+ (cause Facebook won't last forever!)

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May 23, 2012

Dark Fantasy: Sun Mage

Sun Mage (Blacklight Chronicles #2) by John Forrester
ebook
Published January 2012 by Amber Muse
Read April 2012
Get it: Goodreads, IndieBound, Powell's Books, Amazon

Sun Mage picks right up where Fire Mage left off. While I didn't think Sun Mage was as action packed as Fire Mage, it was definitely darker. A couple of times I hoped would be over my niece's head as I wasn't sure how to explain what was going on to her.

I mentioned in my review of Fire Mage I felt the world building was lacking. It is more evident in Sun Mage. While there was ample opportunity to develop a back story for their beliefs and how the world works, these opportunities are not taken. My niece found the book confusing at times because she didn't understand where the kids where half the time. For me, fantasy is difficult to get into. I've mentioned before that I prefer fantasy with a foot in the real world (i.e. my world) and preferably the story is told from the point of view of a character being introduced into the fantasy world.

I still enjoyed the story line and curious about how everything will turn out in the next book - Shadow Mage. I just looked at the publishing date again for Fire Mage and realize that only a couple of months were between the release of it and Sun Mage. Perhaps John will take a bit more time with Shadow Mage and fill in some of the gaps that are missing in the first two installments. The plot is engaging, but I think with a bit more details about the world he has created there would be greater buy in to the story.

Sun Mage is a quick read. Both my niece and I are looking forward to the next book in the series.

Your turn: How do you like your fantasy fiction?
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May 22, 2012

Jillian Medoff: Behind the Scenes (guest post)

I'm so happy to welcome Jillian Medoff to Girl Who Reads. Jillian's contemporary romance I Couldn't Love You More is now available from Grand Central Publishing. You could win a copy here. Not 1, not 2, but 3 lucky US/Canada readers will win a paperback copy of I Couldn't Love You More. Without further ado, please give a warm welcome to Jillian Medoff.

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Behind-the-Scenes Look
 
I’ve been writing fiction for most of my life. I studied creative writing in college at Barnard and graduate school at NYU, taught fiction writing for a brief period, and have spent the past twenty-odd years stealing time from my corporate job, my husband and kids, and my friends to work on my novels. My life is centered around my art; and has been for as long as I can remember. At my publisher’s suggestion, I wrote an essay about being a writer called “This is a True Story,” which is available in my new book, I Couldn’t Love You More. In this essay, I discuss all the rejection and heartache that led up to the publication of I Couldn’t Love You More. The basic gist is that although my writing is very compelling, even gripping at times, as a person, I’m not very interesting.
 
It’s true: I am boring and I live a boring existence. Therefore, a behind-the-scenes look at my writing life would be, sadly, a very tedious exercise. I get up, take my kids to school, go to my office, work on my book during lunch, come home, make dinner, watch crime shows, read, and then go to bed. Some nights I might meet friends for dinner, but my routine rarely wavers. I do think, though, that because my day-to-day life is so conventional, I’m able to tackle more risky material in my novels. For instance, I Couldn’t Love You More is about a stepmother who is forced to decide which of her children she’ll save in a freak accident. Like the book’s narrator, Eliot Gordon, I am both a mother and a stepmother. I also have three kids and two sisters. But that’s where the similarities end. I mean, if I were out saving children in freak accidents all the time, I’d never have the energy to write books, so in my case, having a boring life is actually a blessing. Similarly, writing novels requires herculean amounts of discipline and commitment. I write at least 60 or 70 drafts of a book over a minimum of four years. I Couldn’t Love You More took six years to write, edit, revise and sell. Had I not been a boring, middle-aged mother/office worker, I never would’ve finished it. 
 
Here’s another thing to consider: I was taught that an artist’s life is separate from her art, and that knowing too much about a writer can diminish the experience of reading her fiction. I don’t know if I believe this, especially since I love hearing about authors’ lives and their writing processes, particularly if they’ve had dysfunctional childhoods or twisted love affairs. In fact, I’m usually get star struck around writers whose books I’ve enjoyed. Unfortunately, with the exception of moving a lot as a kid (17 times by the time I was 17), my life has been relatively normal. In fact, I take a weird sort of pride in my normalcy, my ordinariness. So here’s to all the average, ordinary women out there who are raising kids, going to work, making dinner, watching crime shows—and writing the occasional novel.


Find Jillian on the web:

Website

About the book:



With hilarious honesty, wrenching depth, and a knockout twist, I COULDN'T LOVE YOU MORE illuminates the unbreakable bonds of family and reveals the lengths we'll go to save each other, even as we can't save ourselves. From Goodreads.com
 




If you are in the US or Canada (or having a mailing address in the US/Canada), please be sure to enter the Rafflecopter to win 1 of 3 paperback copies of I Couldn't Love You More. You can also find the book in the following places:


a Rafflecopter giveaway
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May 21, 2012

Heather Huffman: Minor Characters Get Their Own Story (guest post)

I am so thrilled to be hosting Heather Huffman. I discovered her last summer when I read Throwaway (see review here) and fell in love with the story. I recently read Jailbird (see review here) and I can't get over how her story captivated me. Heather does an excellent job of giving voice to the voiceless through her writing. I can't wait to read more from Heather, in particular her upcoming new book Devil in Disguise. Please help me welcome Heather Huffman to Girl Who Reads!

I’ve been asked on more than one occasion how I decide which characters get their own book. It’s probably more appropriate to ask which characters will get their own book next, because if I had the time they’d all get a book at some point. I love taking a character we only saw superficially and then diving deeper into who they really are in their own novel. My summer release, Devil in Disguise, is a good example of that – Rachel Cooper has been at least mentioned in almost every one of my books, but we know little of her at this point, other than what we’ve seen in Jailbird.

I wish I could take more credit. It would be great to write a blog post about how I masterfully laid out a plan for the shared universe I’ve created with my books. It would be so much more interesting than the truth, which is that I have no idea why certain characters get their own book when they do.

I absolutely love the world I created in Jailbird and the cast of characters who fill it. They’re figments of my imagination, but I still want to know more about them. I’d love to someday have the time to explore Anjelita and Manny’s back story. There were pieces of Jailbird written specifically to open the door for Mary O’Donnell to have her own book. In my opinion, Gabrielle should one day have her story told, too.

I can’t say why it was Conrad and Rachel who got their turn first, only that I always knew that’s the way it would be. Even as I was writing Jailbird, I was mulling over Devil in Disguise. Many things about the book I knew were coming, I knew had to happen - but there’s a lot about the finished product that surprised even me!

Devil in Disguise picks up with Rachel Cooper and Conrad Langston three years after the end of Jailbird. Their love is a memory, but he’s still the first person she turns to when her little sister is taken by human traffickers. Despite the dark premise, there’s a lot that’s funny and warm about the book. How could it not be with Conrad, Rachel, Neena and Charlie in the mix?

Some of those surprises I am not breathing a word of – and the handful of people who know have been sworn to secrecy – but there are a few things I can let you in on. For one, I didn’t expect Rick and Veronica from Suddenly a Spy or Vance and Harmony from Throwaway to all show up in this book. I guess, given the human trafficking tie, I should have. When the book was simmering, though, I only expected Vance to be in it. Then I started writing and everyone showed up to the party. (And for those who haven’t read Suddenly a Spy, it will be free for Kindle on Amazon starting May 22!)

I truly enjoy writing. I love immersing myself in the world of my characters and seeing their stories unfold. Still, by the time I get to the end, I’m usually pretty happy to be there. Writing Devil in Disguise was something I’d really looked forward to because it meant I could revisit Jailbird, one of my favorite books. But the novel spilled out of me so quickly I felt like I blinked and the writing process was over; I was sad to see it end. The editing process was a different story altogether, but I think that’s because I wanted so badly for this book to be right. I wanted to do their story justice, and it just felt like there was never enough time to really get in and work on it as much as I wanted to.

Still, I’m glad for whatever time I was able to spend back in the world I first stumbled into when I dreamt about Neena Allen escaping from prison. It might be a world fraught with danger, but it’s also one filled with love, laughter, grace and hope.

About Heather:
Heather was born and spent her early childhood in Florida, but now calls the beautiful state of Missouri home. Her greatest joy, aside from writing, is to hit the road with her three boys for adventures unknown. Heather is the author of Throwaway, Ties that Bind, Jailbird, Ring of Fire, Suddenly a Spy and Tumbleweed. You can find out more about her writing and charitable work on www.heatherhuffman.net.

Thank you, Heather, for being on my blog. I so look forward to Devil in Disguise and now I have an excuse to move Suddenly a Spy up on my reading list. Jailbird is still only 99 cents at Amazon.

Your turn: Which minor characters would you like to see get their own book? (Can be from any book).


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