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June 1, 2013

ArmchairBEA: Keeping it Real and Young Adult Literature

Another double header post for Day 4 of Armchair BEA.

Keeping it Real

I think this is the most difficult of the post topics of this year's Armchair BEA. After almost 2.5 years of blogging, I'm struggling with keeping content fresh and fun. At least for me there's days that blogging feels more like a job. However, my readership is at its highest level ever, so I must be doing something right.

Is it a Hobby or a Job?

While I started this blogging as more of a hobby, I'm not sure if it ever truly was. I started book blogging in 2011 after getting my first job in the publishing industry. I think even at that time I saw it as an extension of my professional persona. It was only a hobby in the terms of me being an amateur and not fully committed to the project.

What do I want my blogging to be?

Around the one year mark though I realized I really did want my blog to be more. I would love to see it to become more of a literary ezine. And that is when I got serious about blogging and concerned about my content. While I may never fully turn Girl Who Reads into an ezine, having that goal gives me something to strive for and benchmarks for evaluating my blog.

Changes made

In March/April, I did a Tips series on content writing. I was feeling major burnout and that my blogging had plateaued to some extent. I knew if I wanted to see my third blogging anniversary changes needed to be made. Some of the changes:

  • Increased weekly features
    • I already had a regularly posted guest posts and my tips post, but I formalized the guest posts: Meet the Author Mondays, Writer Wednesdays, and Friday Fun.
    • I added a Sunday Sale Page
  • After polling my readers, I've started to do "recommendation" lists at least a couple of times of months. They usually coincide with something going on that month. For May, I did one for Mental Health Awareness and another for short stories as May is the month for both of those. I also did a list during Children's Book Week. They are easy posts as I'm highlighting books I've already reviewed.
  • Reduced my review posts. I had started reviewing at least twice a week, but they don't get a lot of views or interactions. Now I'm okay with reviewing only a few times a month.
  • Offering giveaways. I really believe one of the reasons I have seen an increase traffic is the number of giveaways I have going on each week. The great thing about these posts - I'm not providing the prizes. Authors, publishers, tour companies and more are happy to provide a prize to my readers in exchange for coverage on my blog (they often provide the post, too!)
  • Changed up my presentation of posts
    • Worked on making better post titles
    • Using more bolding, italics, headings, and bullet points
    • This week I've been playing with using colored fonts
My advice for long-term successful blogging

To keep blogging real and fresh, I think it is important to periodically examine your goals, what your readers want, and how you are presenting your content.

Genre Talk: Young Adult Literature

Even though I'm 36 and a half, I still love reading young adult literature. There's just something about themes that draw me to it. I love coming of age stories. Sometimes it's the innocence of the characters or maybe a nostalgia factor. Other times it is the complex social questions/structure being presented in a simpler manner (not really the right word, but it's been a long week and my brain is a bit fried). I just noticed that Young Adult is my largest shelf at Goodreads. Some of that is because I group the middle grades lit I read for my niece and nephew on to the YA shelf.

As I mentioned in  my genre fiction post, I tend to only read fantasy and science fiction in young adult. Harry Potter, Across the Universe, Jack Templar, Twilight, and Time at the Top are a few examples. And of the 32 titles I've classified as Fantasy/SciFi//Paranormal at Goodreads, the majority are young adult. I think for me is because the universe that is created is maybe explained more, but I think it is more about there being a main character who is from my world and it's more fun to read this genre in YA.

I do have to say though that I think my age is starting to show. While I still enjoy a great YA novel, I'm preferring those classified more as New Adult. They still have the same themes I cherish in YA - coming of age, finding oneself, experiencing LIFE for the first time (the challenges and joys of growing up) - yet have situations I can better relate to. It's been a long time since I was in high school, but I still can identify with those early adult decisions of getting a job, deciding on careers, making decisions on my own that are more prevalent in New Adult.

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the links above.
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May 31, 2013

Meet the Newest Hitwoman Cast Member

Today, I get to introduce to you the newest character in the ensemble cast of the Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman series by JB Lynn: Piss the cat.

This is an excerpt from THE HITWOMAN AND THE FAMILY JEWELS. It takes place in the office of a veterinarian where the neurotic hitwoman, Maggie Lee, waiting for news about the well-being of her beloved dog, is sitting with a one-eyed, scarred cat.


Doctor Felton strolled into the reception. He came to an abrupt stop, a look of shock on his face.

The cat’s comforting purring stopped.

Fear lanced my heart and I trembled. “What is it?”

“You’ve got piss on your lap!” he exclaimed.

Certain I’d misheard him, I asked, “What?”

“Piss,” the doctor insisted. “Piss is on your lap.”

“He means me,” the cat explained.

I looked down at her, then back at the vet. “You mean the cat?”

He nodded. “We call her Miss Piss because she peed in the spare set of shoes I keep in the back.”

“That’s a horrible name.” I looked down at the cat. “Tell me what your name is.”

“It’s a cat,” Patrick reminded me. “It can’t talk.”

The cat had the audacity to wink at me, at least that’s what I think she did with her one good eye, before jumping off my lap and stalking away. “I’m going to relieve myself in his shoes,” she purred naughtily.

About the Author:

Besides being a writer, JB Lynn is a compulsive reader, a runner (of sorts), an enthusiastic cook (who doesn't get the appeal of the Food Network), and someone who has an irresistible urge to eavesdrop at all times.
JB has a great love of her husband, dogs, coffee, purple ink, spiral notebooks, running gear, hot showers, and '80s music. Given enough time, all of these things will eventually show up in her books.
Twitter  *  Facebook  *  website

You can read my review of The Hitwoman and the Family Jewels, plus there's links to my reviews of the entire series. JB's been a frequent guest on Girl Who Reads and you can read all her appearances by clicking on the J. B.Lynn label. But really all you need to know is: The series is HILARIOUS, a quick read that's perfect for summer holiday reading. 

Buy the book at Amazon 

And enter the $25 Amazon or iTunes gift card giveaway sponsored by J. B. Lynn

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made through the above link. A free ebook was provide by the author for review. The giveaway is sponsored by the author who is responsible for fulfillment. The giveaway is also part of the GWR Publicity promotional event paid for by the author. No compensation was provided for this post.
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ArmchairBEA: Ethics and Non-fiction

I'm doing a double header in this post for ArmchairBEA. 
Chairs, Reading
Chairs, Reading (Photo credit: moogiemedia)

Ethics and the Blogger

I tend to stay away from the big dust-ups that have occurred in the blog world over the past year. I don't need my hobby to become embroiled in controversy, but that's not to say I haven't seen some questionable behavior. Thankfully it seems that most bloggers tend to stick with the basic ethics of writing. 

Give credit where credit is due

It seems every few months a big blow out about plagiarism comes around. Remember all that stuff you learned in high school about citing what you write - it still applies today, on the internet. Actually it is easier to cite stuff when blogging as you can directly link to it and you don't have to worry about the proper citation format. I'm sure you would love the shout out if someone used your stuff, so do likewise for the people you are quoting. 

Be honest

Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commis...
Seal of the United States Federal Trade Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Going along with giving credit, also be honest and open with your readers. If you get a book or are compensated some how for your post disclose it. It's actually required by FTC policy. Letting your readers know any connections you have with the author/publisher/publicist is a good practice and really nothing to hide. It could be more damaging if after the fact people realized you were being paid for your endorsement.

Show professionalism 

Negative reviews is another hot button topic that seems to raise its ugly head every few months. If you don't like a book, that's perfectly fine. I say write the review. There is a need in the marketplace for negative reviews - something you didn't like about the book may be the exact reason someone else loves it. Kind of like me and sex scenes. If you want to write reviews for books you don't like, here's a couple of points to keep in mind:
  • No personal attacks! You might not like the writing style, but that really doesn't have anything to do with who the author is as a person.
  • Try to find the positives. Like I said you may not like the book, but someone else might. What might someone else find likeable about the book? 
  • Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Be respectful of other reviewers' thoughts on the book

Genre Talk: Non-fiction

When it comes to non-fiction, this is where my truly eclectic reading choices are really seen. Here's a sampling of some of the non-fiction I've reviewed (many are courtesy of Lucinda of Lucinda Literary)

  • Environmental Ethics: An Anthology
  • Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss
  • Vaccine-Nation by Andreas Moritz
  • Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg 
  • You Are What You Wear by Jennifer Baumgartner
  • Attached by Levine Amir and Rachel Heller
A couple of memoirs:
  • The Slave Next Door by Theresa Flores
  • The Watchmaker's Daughter by Sonia Taitz
And a couple of blogging books
  • My Blog Traffic Sucks! by Steve Scott (great book!)
  • StumbleUpon Exposed (Not worth your time)

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May 30, 2013

ArmchairBEA: Literary Fiction

Your weekly Tips on Thursday post is interrupted today by Armchair BEA. But because I have trouble going a week without giving advice I have just one tip for you: Participate in networking events such as ArmchairBEA to increase your following and enjoy the full benefits of the book blogging community.

Day 3 of Armchair BEA and the topic is Literary Fiction

I don't read as much Literary Fiction as I once did, but I still enjoy it. I find it to be more difficult to review as I feel I need to talk about literary devices and all that stuff I learned in English class. I think some of it, too, is that the work will be so beautifully crafted that my own lame attempt at writing seems so inadequate. Here's a few works of literary fiction I've enjoyed recently:

Temptation by Douglas Kennedy (read my review). Even his Facebook posts are eloquently written.

In the King's Arms by Sonia Taitz (read my review). After reading it all I could think of was beautiful. I also enjoyed Sonia's memoir The Watchmaker's Daughter for once again it was just so beautifully written.

A Gift for My Sister by Ann Pearlman (read my review) was just a poignant story about love, loss, and family.

Immortal by Gene Doucette (read my review). I'm not sure if this book is technically literary fiction, but if writing style is a key to classifying a book as such then Doucette's Immortal could be.

I just finished listening to Is this Tomorrow? by Caroline Leavitt. It was a great coming of age story for a whole neighborhood.

As you can see my list is short and I'm sure there are a couple of others that could be listed, but these are the ones that come to mind when I think of Literary Fiction.

What do you think about Literary Fiction? Is it more difficult to review than genre fiction? What are some of your favorites?

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ArmchairBEA Giveaway Day

Today is one of my favorite days of Armchair BEA - Giveaway Day! And you know what? It is better than being at BEA because you don't have to lug around your new finds or wonder how to pack them back home.

Typically on Thursdays, I have a tips post. I give advice or share something I learned recently that I think is beneficial to bloggers. Since it is giveaway day, I thought I would mention my tips on running a legal giveaway. You can check out the post here.

I have several giveaways going on right now that you might be interested in.

Blood Vine series swag and signed paperback of Fern by Amy Richie (ends 5/31)
$100 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal cash (ends 6/1)
A Newbie Author's Survival Guide by A. K. Taylor - 3 e-copies (ends 6/5)
Swag & signed children's book Erin by Monette Pangan (ends 6/7)
Crimson Key swag & signed paperback of Brown House by Christy Sloat (ends 6/10)
Bounce House (ends 6/11)
Complete series of The Pipe Woman Chronicles by Lynne Cantwell & $20 Amazon Gift (ends 6/17)
$25 Amazon or iTunes gift card (ends 6/18)

And now a special giveaway for Armchair BEA participants ONLY: a $15 gift card from bookstore of your choice (must accept US dollars and be purchased online. For Book Depository, winner may choose a $15 book since they don't do gift cards).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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May 29, 2013

ArmchairBEA: Genre Fiction

Today at Armchair BEA we are talking about genre fiction. I read a lot of genre fiction. I mostly read for entertainment (I don't have cable so most of my entertainment comes from books). Book Blogging has definitely widen my horizons as far as genres I'm willing to read and actually enjoy most of the time.

My first love though is Pyschological Thrillers. I loved Before I Go To Sleep and Still Missing. Anything by Ted Dekker also is a must read. I love how they make me think. There's just something about seeing the dark and twisted side of human nature that I find fascinating.

Probably tied with psychological thrillers is my love for stories of espionage. I used to have a Goodreads shelf titled Espionage.  I'm particularly fond of Cold War era espionage - Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series and Jack Higgins' Sean Dillon series. However, I've gotten a bit into corporate espionage with The Egyptian by Layton Green.

At Christmas time, I always want to read Chick-lit and there's been some really good stuff lately. I loved True Love Way by Nancy Scrofano and Dating Mr. December by Phillipa Ashley.

I'm not big on true romance, but one series that I'm anxiously awaiting the third installment of is Gabriel's Inferno and Gabriel's Rapture by Sylvain Reynard. Gabriel's Redemption is due out in December. I'm REALLY hoping there's an ARC with my name on it (are you reading this SR?).

I've started to get into sci-fi and fantasy since blogging, though I mostly stick to young adult fare (particularly the fantasy) in this category. The Gateway Chronicles by K. B. Hoyle - LOVE IT and enjoyed the Across the Universe series by Beth Revis. As far as adult fare, All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness and the Extrahumans series by Susan Bigelow. I much prefer there to be elements of my own world involved. Full fantasy particularly is difficult for me. I liked The Blacklight Chronicles by John Forrestor, but don't find them nearly as enjoyable as the the series I mentioned above. I just noticed I mostly read series in this genre.

I've found that I enjoy speculative and dystopian fiction, but haven't read a lot in either category. I like it because there is the element of this may happen and like pyschological thrillers often make you think about your own actions and beliefs.

While I love a good thriller, horror is something I stay away from. The closest I've come to horror is probably The First Victim by J. B. Lynn.

Speaking of J. B. Lynn. The funniest books I've ever read is her Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman series. They are heading into more clear cut chick lit with the latest installment, but they still remain firmly in the humor genre.

I guess that about sums up my genre fiction reading. When you throw in the non-fiction and literary fiction I also enjoy you can see my reading tastes are quite eclectic.

What do you enjoy reading?

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Donna Huber: A Weekend Writer

Welcome to the Armchair BEA edition of Writer Wednesday. Today's topic is Blogger Development. I thought I would share what my blog has developed into. And since BEA is about revealing upcoming titles, I'm giving bloggers at home an opportunity to share in the excitement of revealing a new project.

At the beginning of May, I decided to write a book. So on Saturday, May 4 I sat down and started writing. By Sunday night I had around 10,000 words and finished the first draft. The book was never meant to be long. It's a how-to manual for authors.

You may be wondering how a person can write an entire, although short, book in a weekend. I'll be honest I've been working on the content for perhaps the past year. Each week I post tips for authors and bloggers. I have amassed quite a bit of information over the past year or so since starting the Tips on Thursday. However, it isn't well organized and can be difficult for someone looking for a specific piece of advice.

Probably a year ago, a group of bloggers and authors encouraged me to put my tips posts in book form. And six months ago, I did start working on that, but quickly became overwhelmed with the amount of information I had and how to make it all flow together.

Therefore, at the beginning of the month I decided to try a mini-book - a book that I could write on the weekends and finish within about a month. One of my more popular and often requested topics is on organizing blog tours. Funny enough that post was inspired by an Armchair BEA topic. Using that post as the basis, I pulled together 5 or 6 other posts I've done on similar topics that would be useful to authors planning a tour and filled in the gaps with real life examples from tours that I've organized or participated in.

The result, Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. A number of my author and blogging friends are helping me unveil the project today with a cover reveal: J. B. Lynn at Killer Chicks, Kriss of Cabin Goddess, Tami of Bookish Temptations, Karen Pokras Toz (there are more, but this will give a sampling of what others are saying).

When I started my blog two years ago, I didn't know if I would still be blogging six months later let alone ever write a book based on my blog.  There's a reason why I chose Girl Who Reads as my online persona. In a couple of weeks when the book is available in ebook format, I might have to reconsider my title. Nah. I'll always be Girl Who Reads.... who spends her weekends writing.

Buy Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour at Amazon
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May 28, 2013

Armchair BEA: Introductions & Classics

Tell us about yourself. Have you done Armchair BEA before?

Hi! I'm Donna and I've been blogging since 2011. This is my third year at Armchair BEA. I'm looking forward to getting to know new bloggers and catching up with old friends.

Where in the world are you blogging from?

I live on the outskirts of Athens, Georgia which is the home of UGA, REM, and the B-52s

What are you currently reading?

I always have a couple of books going at any time. I finished up a couple of books last week and getting started on The Diabolist by Layton Green and Black Venus by James MacManus.

What is your favorite post?

I enjoy writing my weekly Tips posts and hope that you will take the time to read through them. A recent one that has been pretty popular is my tips on creating a weekly feature on your blog.

What is your favorite part of the blogging community?

I love the people I've met. I've become friends with a number of authors - I probably would never have contacted most of the authors that I now talk to regularly if I hadn't started blogging. I enjoy the blogging friends I made.  And I really like all the books I get. I've discovered new genres that I like, but probably wouldn't have read on my own.

Thanks for stopping by and getting to know me a little bit. Please leave a comment with a link to your post and I will try to get by.

My Top 5 Favorite Classics

1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
3. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
4. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
5. The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
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Get a Great Summer Read Giveaway

Summer has officially started and it's time to get reading!

Win a $25 Amazon or iTune Gift Card 

You could get this summer's funniest read:

How do you say “no” to a mob boss?

When bumbling hitwoman Maggie Lee is asked by her mob boss employer to kill a cop, she wants to say no.

When her sexy murder mentor, Patrick Mulligan tells her the cop in question is a guy she once dated, she REALLY wants to refuse.

But when her former date, Paul Kowalski tries to kill her, she changes her tune to “Hell, yes!”

Maggie and Patrick grow closer as they scramble to figure out what it is that Kowalski is looking for and what it has to do with her prison escapee father.

Maggie’s search is hampered by the presence of US Marshals hunting her father and her crazier-than-usual family.

Along with her snarky talking lizard, grammatically-challenged Doberman, and a pissy cat, she races to solve the mystery and protect her family. But nothing in Maggie’s life ever goes as planned….

Chat with J. B. Lynn
Thursday, May 30 at 8 pm eastern
Twitter: #Hitwoman

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A GWR Publicity event paid for by the author. Giveaway is sponsored by the author.
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May 27, 2013

Weekly Short: There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself

If you can't guess from the super long title, There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself is a collection of short stories translated from Russian. I'm not sure I've read any Russian literature. I'm sure it was on my high school reading list, but I think it was the books I didn't get to.

It is a collection of stories about love, but not what you typically think of as love stories. The collection is grouped into four sections and highlight love at different "stages": young love, family love, parent/child love, and mature love.

There's nothing dressed up about these love stories. The stories are like getting glimpse of real life. And life in Russia wasn't real rosy. There's none of the glitz that we would associate with American love stories, yet there is something profound in these stories. Something of human spirit. There is more beneath the surface.

If you are still looking for short stories to read for Short Story Month, and want something that will widen your horizon (and give you a better understanding of what love is) then try There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself.

Buy it at Amazon.

Book info: paperback, 171 pages, published January 2013 by Penguin Books
Source: publisher
Read: February - May 2013

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the link above. A free copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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May 26, 2013

Sunday Sale Page 5/26

I have a bunch of giveaways going on, and a few have low entries. If you want a chance at a free book or some swag, be sure to enter today!

Bounce into Summer (win a bounce house)
Bella Andre Summer of Love (beach bag with goodies from Bella Andre & Harlequin)
The Pipe Woman Chronicles (5 book set)
Shadow of Night (paperback & alchemy buttons)
Visitor's series (Brown House and swag)
Children's Book Week (Erin, gift card, and swag)
The Enemy ($100 gift card)
Blood Vine series (Fern, gift card, and swag)
A Newbie Author's Survival Guide (3 ebook copies)

Now on to some great book deals.

I picked this book up on Friday. It looks appropriate for the holiday weekend.

Free at Amazon and B&N

I'm really feeling the need to read drama, as you can tell by the other free ebooks I picked up

Free at Amazon and B&N

Free at Amazon and B&N

May is Short Story Month

Free at Amazon and B&N

Check out these 99 cents bestsellers

99 cents at Amazon and B&N

99 cents at Amazon and B&N

Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affililate; a small fee is earned when purchases are made at Amazon through the links above. Prices are accurate as of May 25, please verify price before purchasing. Prices only apply to ebooks.