Readers' Favorite

Featured Post

Reflections on the #AtoZChallenge

by Donna Huber For the A to Z Challenge, I discussed different book genres/categories. Each day, I gave a few details about the genre/catego...

July 16, 2016

A Supernatural Cozy Mystery: Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet #BigBookGiveaway

by Donna Huber

cover of Graveyard Shift
A few weeks ago I was preparing the Big Book Giveaway event and I noticed of the books were free in their ebook form. So, like any reading addict I clicked BUY! One such book was Angela Roquet's Graveyard Shift.

It is a cozy mystery featuring grim reapers and I don't know about you, but I don't typically put humor and reapers in the same sentence. So I had to take a chance on what I hoped would be a quirky summer read.

Graveyard Shift is the first book in Roquet's Lana Harvey, Reapers Inc series and as such there was quite a bit of world building in the opening chapters. Unfortunately it caused the story to start more slowly than I would have liked. But I think it was also because I was struggling with getting into a world about the afterlife that went against my own personal religious beliefs. (I can suspend belief when it comes to aliens ruling the world, but apparently it is a bit more difficult for me when it comes to what happens after death).

It probably didn't help that I couldn't care less about fashion and the main character loves fashion, so there were clothing descriptions that I could have done without. Particularly since I was dying to find out what kind of hilaritiy reapers could get into when dealing with the dead.

But once the story progressed past setting up the who and where and we really got into what the story was about, I became engrossed in it. So much so that by the end I was wanting to pick up another Lana Harvey mystery.

Did it turn out to be the quirky summer read I was hoping for? Yeah. Pretty much. It was entertaining, light read. And I think future books will be even better as we get to the know the characters and the world they inhabit more. I can see the potential for this becoming a "must read" series for me and I don't have very many of those.

I liked the cast of characters. There is a great diversity of personalities, which I'm sure will provide numerous opportunities for fun (for the reader at least) in the future adventures of Lana.

Lana reminded me a lot of Lisa Lutz's Izzy Spellman (Spellman Files) and JB Lynn's Maggie Lee (Confessions of a Slightly Neurotic Hitwoman). Just as it was with those characters, I look forward to 'watching' Lana grow up.

Roquet has definitely done a great job creating a character the reader will want to root for. Lana is absolutely an awesome option for those looking for a book best friend (you know, if you overlook the tiny fact that she's a reaper. Maybe just think of her as an undertaker. Umm... that's probably just as creepy).

If you are looking for something a bit different in your supernatural or cozy mystery reading, then I recommend giving Graveyard Shift a chance. Enter the giveaway below for your chance to win a signed paperback copy, and if you can't wait for the giveaway to be over to start reading it, then pick up the free ebook at Amazon or B&N like I did.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 15, 2016

Minding Your P’s and Q’s: the Rules of Writing

by Byddi Lee

There are rules we must follow when we write in order to make it readable. That may seem pretty obvious, but some people believe that if they can talk they can write. It’s not the same thing. The rules for writing are more rigid. Yes, there are writers out there who have successfully skirted around, bent or broken these rules. In order to break the rules and get away with it, you need to know them well. It also helps if you are extremely well known and extremely talented. A beginner writer is, at best, only one of those things.

In order to get to grips with grammar, I needed to revisit the terminology. Coming from a science background, I can tell you, in molecular detail, how a leaf photosynthesizes, but I have trouble remembering what an adverb is. Bringing it back to very simple terms, here’s how I keep it all straight.

Parts of Speech

A noun is a naming word – a place, person or a thing. A verb is a doing word. The subject of a sentence is what is doing the verb. An adjective is a describing word. An adverb is used to modify another word. For example, the adverb “quickly” can be used with the verb “run.” Most, though not all, adverbs end in “ly” and writers are advised to avoid using these.

Proper Puncuation

It does help to develop your own writing style, but the basics needs must be met. Every sentence needs to begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop, exclamation mark or question mark. That may seem like a very basic place to begin, but I’ve often seen writers flounder in simply writing a sentence containing those two elements. I think the reason why boils down to the fact that we learn this so early on in our school careers that many have forgotten these fundament requirements. In everyday speech we are not aware of how a sentence is set out. Even while critiquing experienced writers, I have at times needed to remind someone to start with a capital letter and end on a period.

One thing I was guilty of at the beginning was the overuse of exclamation marks. It was as if every sentence was shouting out at the reader demanding attention!

Sentence Structure

So what else does a sentence need? Aside from the correct punctuation, at the very least, a sentence also needs at least one main clause. A clause needs a verb and a subject that forms a complete thought that makes sense. Building up from this, you can join clauses to make compound sentences, and group them to make complex sentences. Writers should avoid run-on sentences where two or more complete clauses are joined without adequate punctuation.

Commas are part of this punctuation team and a complete minefield for writers. Comma use is a whole post on its own, but I will mention conjunctions – words used to join two or more words, phrases or clauses. There are a limited number of these words and they are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so – easily remembered by the acronym FANBOYS.

You use a comma before a conjunction if the two clauses could be written as a simple sentence on its own. For example:

I ran away and joined the circus.

I ran away, and I joined the circus.

Mind the Tense

Mistakes using tense are another thing I see a lot when critiquing. A writer needs to choose a tense to write in and then stick to it. Typically the tenses most written in are past and present,  the later becoming more popular now especially in the Young Adult genre. It is not impossible to write entire stories in other tenses, though future tense might be considered quite experimental.  Often past perfect tense is used to bookend flash backs to que the reader as to when the flash back begins and when it ends. For example:

Mary had been happy that day. She came home from school… this section can be written in past tense …but the dog died and she had never gotten over it.

Point of View

The point of view (POV) in a story is also worth considering carefully before you begin.

The first person POV can be very effective in conveying the narrator’s emotional state. The drawback is that you cannot tell the story from any other person’s perspective, so some of the elements of the story might be harder to convey.

With a third person POV you can be in more than one person’s head, though switching between those POVs requires skill. Suddenly changing to the POV of another character is very jarring and needs to be done using text breaks or between paragraphs at the very least. It is better not to have too many different POVs within a story.

In older literature the writers tended to have an omniscient POV, telling the story with a broad overview. Whatever style you choose, be consistent for that story.

Tools of the Trade

Many of us use software that helps us to spell words and even correct grammar – up to a point. This will only carry us so far, but it is a start. We are lucky to live in an age when information is literally at our finger tips. We can quite literally Google anything we want. Try Googling “How to write a sentence” and see what you discover. “What not do when writing” is a great search that will help you avoid the pitfalls. Or you can be very specific and ask about the “Oxford comma.” I’ve found Google extremely useful when I’ve gotten confused between the rules of British English and American English.

Your biggest learning tool in writing is reading. Observe how other writers put words together, use grammar and avoid problematic pronouns.

Remember that knowing the technicalities behind turning words and punctuation into sentences and paragraphs is only a subset of the tools you need as a writer. Grammar and punctuation is easy to learn and the information and answer to your questions is out there. Take heart if at first your work is coming back to you after a critiquing session covered in red-pen marks inserting commas, full stops and capital letters! The only way to improve is to keep reading and keep writing.

Byddi Lee, features writer. Byddi grew up in Armagh, Ireland, and moved to Belfast to study Biology at Queen’s University when she was 18. She made Belfast her home for twenty-one years, teaching science and writing for pleasure. In 2002 she took a sabbatical from teaching and traveled round the world for two years, writing blogs about her adventures as she went. She returned to Ireland in 2004 and resumed teaching. In 2008 she and her husband moved to San Jose, California where she made writing a full-time career. After the publication of her short story, Death of a Seannachai, she decided it was time to write, March to November. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 14, 2016

3 Best Practices for Writing Content on the Web

by Donna Huber

web writing

A few weeks ago I took an online course offered by HubSpot Academy. I thought one of the classes was particularly applicable to book bloggers. It was about creating remarkable content and offered a number of tips that amounted to best practices for writing for the web.

1. Pick a topic and a title

Picking a topic is often easy for book bloggers - it is the book they just finished. There are other topics that book bloggers can write about: author news and interviews, recommended reading and other themed lists, how to fit reading into busy schedules, etc.

A title can be a bit more of challenge.

You want your title to contain keywords that people would use when searching for the topic of your post. For this post the title could be 'web writing best practices' (this is the title I started with, we'll see if it makes the cut in the end), 'how to write an outstanding post', or 'tips for writing on the web'.

It is best to start with one title and then after the post is written go back and optimize it. You want to make sure what your readers will be getting from the post is stated in your title.

One last tip about titles: Shorten the title so that it will show up in its entirety in Google search. Currently Google only shows between 50 and 60 characters when it returns search results.

If you can't get it below 60 characters, make sure the most important words are at the beginning of the title.

Read more: What to Title Your Posts
tips for writing blog posts

2. Format and optimize your post

You always want to focus first on writing quality content, but once you have a great post written you should consider the design.

If you have been looking for information about web writing, then you know about using headers, number or bullet lists, white space, bold text and images to make your content easier and more attractive to read. These are particularly important if you write longer content.

If you are interested in how many words a post should be, read Copy Blogger's statistics on content word count. It boils down to people are busy so only write as many words as is required to get your point across.

In the course I took, they mentioned two more features that are important for SEO when formating web content: long-tail keywords and internal/external links.This is the opitmization portion of the design.

What is long-tail keywords and how should it be used in web writing?
Are you scratching your head at 'long-tail keywords'? Don't worry; you're not alone, which is why I wrote a post on keyword SEO basics. Whereas a keyword may be a generic word or phrase,  long-tailed keywords is more specific and is usually a phrase. For the example, if the keyword for your post was romance novels, you probably won't rank very high in search results because it's too broad. A long-tail keyword would be steamy romance novels.

You want to make sure you are using your long-tail keyword/phrase in:
  • page title
  • url
  • post title
  • image alt-text
  • headers
  • the body of the post. The phrase/words should be used naturally. You don't have to repeat the exact phrase or word, use synonyms.
When writing for the web you should include links to other material.
The one optimization trick that book bloggers most often miss is the inclusion of links to other content. You might include a link to Amazon or other retailer or perhaps link to Goodreads for people to read the summary, but that's about it.

The instructor of the class recommended 1 - 2 links per paragraph. I think that might be a bit much for a book review. Yet, I do think reviewers can include 3 - 5 links per post.

You will want a mix of internal links (content that is on your site) and external links (content on other sites). So far I have included 6 links to other content in this post. Four are internal links to other content on Girl Who Reads and two are external links.

Internal links keep people on your site, while external links help increase your page rank score.

Have you reviewed other books by the same author or perhaps you ran an interview with the author. Linking to those posts are great options for internal links. As for external links, most authors now have a website or blog and you can link to those (if you can find a specific post where the author talks about the book, it would be better than just link to the homepage). Also you can look for interviews or guest posts the author has done and link to them.

For links to really help with SEO, you should link text that also includes your long-tail keywords or pertinent to the content you are linking to. Do NOT use 'click here' or other variations. For examples of better text linking, see my examples in this post.

3. Include a Call to Action (CTA)

After reading your post, what do you want people to do? If it is a book review and you are an Amazon affiliate, you more than likely want people to go to Amazon and buy the book. In this case your CTA may be 'Buy Now at Amazon'.

A CTA can be a button, a link, or even an image. Try different ways of presenting your CTA to see what works best for you.

Other CTAs may be signing up for your mailing list or following your blog. These CTAs can be in your post or in the side bar. Typically they occur at the end of the post, but you can have a CTA after the first few paragraphs that is in the form of  a passive link. A passive link CTA usually starts with 'learn more', 'read more', 'get info', etc.

CTAs typically lead to a landing page, but book bloggers do not typically have an offer that fits a landing page. However, if you offer something in exchange for signing up for a newsletter, then you may want to consider creating a landing page. But that is a post for another day.

So there you have it: 3 Best Practices for Writing Content on the Web. Whether you are writing a book review, a how to article, or an interview, incorporating these elements into your post will help get your content found, read, and shared.

Donna Huber, founder & publisher. Donna is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour. She reads most genres, but her favorite books are psychological thrillers and stories that highlight the survival of the human spirit against unbelievable circumstances.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 13, 2016

A Review of Two WWII Novels: The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See

By Alison DeLuca

girl reading

This year I read two amazing books about World War II: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Lovely and tragic as jewels on a woman killed by gunfire, these books are deadly wonders.

The novels are similar and different at the same time. Both are set in France during WWII. Both feature Germans in sympathetic roles, Hannah and Doerr sidestepping cardboard cut-out characterizations. Both books feature bravery that comes from ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

cover of The Nightingal
Unsparing in its description of the horrors of everyday life in the midst of wartime, Hannah jumps into her story with French refugees. As the starving families flee their farms and the German army, they in turn spread ruination, the kind that comes from starvation and despair.

Two sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, are drawn into the war. Isabelle, a headstrong beauty, goes gladly. Vianne, a married housewife, protests her involvement…yet each will be tested to the utmost.

The daughters of a WWI veteran (whose involvement in the Great War has left terrible scars,) Vianne and Isabelle seem, at first, complete opposites. One accepts the German invasion philosophically, determined to make the best of a bad situation. Vianne is the one running their parents’ house, the one who is married and has a child. Her focus is to keep the house running during the wave of refugees. Her goals are simple: do her teacher’s job and put food on the table.

Isabelle is infuriated by Vianne’s complaceney. She wants to reach out to the refugee families, fight against the Germans, and follow her new love to Paris to become part of the Resistance. A headstrong young girl expelled from several schools, she doesn’t understand fighting the Germans (or even helping refugees) brings its own terrible consequence.

WWII tank
photo courtesy of pixabay
As the war winds on, Isabelle is drawn into helping downed pilots in France but finds Resistance is not as romantic as she thought. As for Vianne, she finds it is impossible to stay completely sheltered from the war.

Hannah doesn’t shy away from the grim face of war or the horrors of torture and starvation. If you like learning about French life during WWII, I highly recommend this book. Once I began, it was nearly impossible to put down – although the writing was fairly standard stuff. This is a Ken Follett-type of novel, where events are so fascinating you have to find out what happens on the next page, but the author doesn’t bother with poetic language. Hannah prose is as straightforward as Vianne herself, although there are times when it sings – during a first kiss, a dreadful parting, or the family ceremony of tying wool on a tree to represent a person or memory.

Buy The Nightingale at Amazon

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

cover All the Light We Cannot See
Doerr's novel is told with soaring language and endlessly inventive turns of phrase. The story of Marie-Laure, a blind girl left behind in Saint-Malo when her father is brought to prison in Germany. It is also the story of Werner Pfenning, a boy genius with technology and radios who is conscripted into the German army.

And, wonderfully, Light is also a fable of a fabulous diamond called The Sea of Flames. The gem has been cursed and hidden away behind 13 doors in the Natural Museum where M. LeBlanc, Marie-Laure’s father, is a locksmith. Entrusted with the Sea of Flames or perhaps its copy, he takes his daughter to Saint-Malo to escape the invasion of Paris.

This is told in tiny, flashing chapters – each one a gem on its own. I loved the quick pace of the novel, showing tantalizing glimpses of Werner holed up in the Hotel of Bees, Marie-Laure figuring out the puzzles her father makes for her, and the importance of radio during the invasion.

As Marie-Laure learns to read an enormous Braille copy of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, her father makes an intricate copy of Saint Malo for her so she can touch the streets and learn her way.
WWII downed plane
photo courtesy of Finda Photo

All the Light We Cannot See unfolds with the amazing properties of radio and how science is both magical and miraculous. Doerr strikes the perfect tone, never too tremulous or overreaching. For example, the episodes of the scientific radio program for children accidentally discovered by Werner and his sister are so lovely they made me breathless:

‘The brain is locked in total darkness, of course, children… It floats in a clear liquid inside the skull, never in the light. And yet the world it constructs in the mind is full of light. It brims with color and movement. So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?’

For Marie-Laure, of course, there is no light except that which her father constructs for her by his little puzzles and the amazing toy version of their city. So when he is taken away, she is left in the dark… or is she?

Buy All the Light We Cannot See at Amazon

field of poppies
photo courtesy of pexels

Both All the Light We Cannot See and The Nightingale ‘come unstuck in time’ like Billy Pilgrim to visit our recent past (in Light’s case, the 1970’s.) As we spend our days reading news items about attacks to citizens and police, why would we turn to novels about further gunfire? Perhaps it’s part of our search to make sense of it all. Both books calmly present their horrors, making them all the worse for the silence in which they’re experienced. And both, in the end, discover the seemingly forbidden gem of humanity among all the bullets.

Both books fascinated and enlightened me. The Nightingale is the more typical type of summer read, so if you’re looking for a poolside or beach volume, it’s a great choice.

All the Light We Cannot See, however, is poetic as well as compelling. In the end, it was my favorite of the two, although I enjoyed The Nightingale as well. Load up your Kindle with these World War II novels before you go away on a summer destination. I can’t think of two more perfect travel companions.

Alison DeLuca is the author of a steampunk series and several other books. She lives with her family in New Jersey, wrestling words and laundry.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 12, 2016

2 Great Women's Fiction Novels Hit Shelves Today

by Susan Roberts

cover of The Choices We Make
The Choices We Make by Karma Brown

This is another outstanding book by Karma Brown that will pull at your heartstrings while it introduces you several real characters in a story that could be happening right now anywhere in America.

Once I started this book, I didn't put it down until I was finished because I had to know the outcome. I laughed and cried with the characters and they are still in my mind several days after the book was finished.

SUMMARY Hannah and Kate have been friends since fifth grade and years later they are still as close - or closer - than sisters. Kate is married and has two small daughters. Hannah and her husband have tried for years to have a baby and been unsuccessful and are about ready to give up when Kate offers to be a surrogate.

This is the story of their friendship and what it means to have a family and to be a family. Read this book. You won't be disappointed.

Buy The Choices We Make at Amazon

cover of Love Luck and Lemon Pie
Love, Luck & Lemon Pie by Amy Reichert

I absolutely loved this novel -- it had everything -- laughs, a few tears, a little romance, jealousy, friendship and love. What more could you want to spend a few hours to take you away from your own problems?

MJ and Chris have been married for 20 years and have two teenage kids. Chris has been spending more time at the casino playing poker than he has been spending with MJ so she decides that she needs to start playing poker, too, so that they can spend some quality time together. Boy does her plan backfire! Because of her history (which I won't go into because of possible spoilers), she is a fantastic poker player and soon becomes hooked on the game and HER time at the casino.

Read the book to find out if Love or Poker wins the game of life for MJ and Chris. It's a great read!

Buy Luck, Love & Lemon Pie at Amazon

Susan Roberts, reviewer. Susan grew up in the Detroit area but after deciding that city life wasn't for her she moved to North Carolina after college. She and her husband have several acres of land and they enjoy gardening and canning vegetables in the summer. They travel extensively. Susan reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on Facebook or Twitter.

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Free galleys were provided via Netgalley for these reviews. Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 11, 2016

#BigBookGiveaway Spotlight on Concealed by R.J. Crayton #MondayBlogs

cover of Concealed
If you haven't taken a look at the list of 20 books in the Big Book Giveaway, let me tell you that there is a variety of genres represented. So far Girl Who Reads has featured the memior Course Correction by Ginny Gilder, the cozy mystery Kitten Kaboodle by Kathi Daley and paranormal thriller The Photograph by Grant Leishman. Today we are featuring young adult dystopian novel Concealed by R.J. Crayton.

From Goodreads:

They said it was extremely hard to get.
They said it wasn’t airborne.
They said there was nothing to fear.
They were wrong.

Seventeen-year-old Elaan Woodson was supposed to be one of the lucky ones. She got one of the few spots in the subterranean protection unit designed to keep select scientists, military officials and their families safe from the deadly virus ravaging the world above.

But, how lucky are you really when the people in charge and those you love keep secrets from you? While Elaan has heard that what you don’t know can’t hurt you, she’s beginning to think otherwise. And she should…

What others are saying about Concealed:

Intriguing from the beginning and it just got better and better. ~ Marta Jordon

Unexpected twists and turns with tension and suspense keep your interest from start to finish. ~ Sandra

Eagerly waiting the next book. ~ Ellen G.

Start reading:

Enter the giveaway:
(see all the books in the Big Book Giveaway)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.

July 10, 2016

#BigBookGiveaway Spotlight on The Photograph by Grant Leishman

The Photograph
The Photograph by Grant Leishman is one of 20 books in the Big Book Giveaway that is currently under way. If you have a U.S. address, be sure to enter below for your chance to win a box of great paperback books.  The Photograph is a newly released paranormal thriller. Leishman has also recently published a collaborative novel, Tortured Minds, with authors Colin Griffiths and Rachel McGrath.


When Tony Logan discovers an undeveloped roll of film from the 1970's, he is excited to see what it contains. One photograph, in particular, will send Tony and his siblings on a desperate search for what really happened to their parents. From the 1300's until the present day, Tony will discover their family has been cursed. Was their mother truly dead? Their search for answers will envelop them in magic, witchcraft, the underworld and supernatural happenings. A page-turner that will keep you rooted to the book till the bitter end.

What others are saying:

a well written supernatural thriller with a twist at every turn. ~ Angela Lockwood

a gripping, horror story ~ Jess James

creepy, suspenseful and addictive reading. ~ Sharon Brownlie

Start Reading:

Enter the Giveaway:
See the full list of possible books to win at the Big Book Giveaway event post.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Get even more book news in your inbox by signing up for our newsletter: Girl Who Reads is an Amazon advertising affiliate; a small commission is earned when purchases are made at Amazon using any Amazon links on this site. Thank you for supporting Girl Who Reads.