A Tough Day in Blogging

Today I tried something I’ve never done before in my two plus years blogging here. Write a letter to a publisher to inquire about a review copy. This is something that I’ve put off for a long time because I have always felt like I am not worthy enough. My reviews are conversations to my readers. They aren’t cynical or analytical and most of the time they aren’t even critical. When I sit down to write reviews I write them as if I am having a conversation with a good friend about the book I just read.
It took me a long time to be okay with that. If you’ve been a visitor to this blog from the beginning you have seen the struggle. You have seen the various ways that I’ve attempted to write reviews. I try to write like a New York Times book reviewer. Failed. I tried to be fun and include gifs. Kind of failed. The gifs were fun, but put them in a review and it just wasn’t me. So it’s taken me a while to get back to the conversation style reviews I post. Are there better reviews out there? Sure. But there comes a point where I have to say to myself, I really don’t care. It’s a hard struggle. As someone who keeps to myself posting anything online is a risk.
This post may remind you of a post I did a while ago about my struggle with ratings and my overall struggle with always wanting to get everything right. So this idea isn’t something new.

I go to some blogs and they list their stats. I have never ever said anything about my stats online or on this blog because I thought it would be a turn off…because they were so low. At this point in time I feel like it’s affecting me negatively. Not the blog, but me.

I have no followers on the blog. Partly because I don’t know how to set up followers on WordPress.
I have 17 subscribers to my mailchimp for blog tours.
I have 111 followers onFacebook
I have 367 followers on my personal Twitter
I have 235 followers on my blog Twitter
I have 9,475 total views on my site. That’s total. Meaning in the 2.5 years I’ve been blogging it has less than 10k views.
I have 16 comments. Once again that’s total. 2 and a half years and 16 comments.

There are days when I check the stats on my site and I have zero views. Sometimes it’s really disheartening. Then other times I don’t even care. I like talking about books. I love to read and I like having a conversation, even if it’s one sided, about the books that I’ve read. I will be the first to admit that I don’t post all the time. I’ve said several times most of that is due to school, work, and numerous other obligations that I have.
Recently I have realized that part of the reason is that is has been taking me a long time to read book recently. I look back over the ones I’ve read and I realize that I part of the reason is that the books I’ve been getting through Netgalley, while much appreciated, haven’t been books that have interested me once I get reading. I haven’t read any books recently that really excited me. I have had anything that made me long to read it in those moment’s when I couldn’t.
So tonight, when with the help of my friend Marla, I sat down to compose my first ever request to a publisher for a review book and I looked at my stats I felt like a failure. Now I am thinking, Where do I go from here? From here I try to be more selective with the books that I request on Netgalley. Instead of trying for any possible I need to make sure that they are actually ones that will keep me interested. I need to gain more confidence in my rating. The last book I read I gave three stars to even when it deserved two and so I went back and changed it because it bothered me. I try not to care that I don’t get comments or that I don’t get thousands of views on my site a month. I look forward to continuing the conversation, whether it be with silent readers or with myself, about books that I read.
As I continue forward on this adventure I remember all the things I love about blogging. The incredible friends that I’ve made. Sharing my joy and innocent excitement about books. Organizing blog tours. (They are so much fun to plan!) I remember that life isn’t always about who is in the lead, whether it be with views, comments, or number of books read. Instead it’s about asking myself whether or not this is something that I enjoy. The answer is yes. I love doing this. Even when I am in a corner alone and no one is watching me. This is what I enjoy and so I will keep doing it, regardless of how alone I feel sometimes, because I love books and I share my love even if only a few people catch it.

Don’t Even Think About It- Review

Title: Don’t Even Think About It
Author: Sarah Mlynowski
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: March 11, 2014
Source: Netgalley

Contemporary teen fiction with romance, secrets, scandals, and ESP from the author of Ten Things We Did (And Probably Shouldn’t Have).

We weren’t always like this. We used to be average New York City high school sophomores. Until our homeroom went for flu shots. We were prepared for some side effects. Maybe a headache. Maybe a sore arm. We definitely didn’t expect to get telepathic powers. But suddenly we could hear what everyone was thinking. Our friends. Our parents. Our crushes. Now we all know that Tess is in love with her best friend, Teddy. That Mackenzie cheated on Cooper. That, um, Nurse Carmichael used to be a stripper.

Since we’ve kept our freakish skill a secret, we can sit next to the class brainiac and ace our tests. We can dump our boyfriends right before they dump us. We know what our friends really think of our jeans, our breath, our new bangs. We always know what’s coming. Some of us will thrive. Some of us will crack. None of us will ever be the same.
So stop obsessing about your ex. We’re always listening.

When I first read the summary for Don’t Even Think About It I was really excited. This sounded like a really great story that would be interesting to read. The book started off with a lot of promise and I read about a third of the book before I knew it. At that point though things slowed down for me.
Where was the plot! What was the point of this? The book led up to nothing. It was a lukewarm attempt to write a really cool story.
My first major issue with this book is there was no climax. The book built to nothing and so ended as nothing. It was disappointing. What was the point of reading it if I couldn’t get anything out of it? There was maybe a baby peak at the end of the book and that was it. The build was barely was hardly a baby hill worth of a climb. There should have been a larger built. There should have been something that became dire to the characters. There was so much potential and the plot just didn’t rise to the occasion.
My second major issue was the lack of character growth. I really enjoyed how this was told as a collective, but with the collective thought came the potential for growth. The only character that had a solid story arc was Cooper. He was the only character in the story that had a life altering experience. He was the one that pointed out that everyone is a liar. He was the one who went through a trial. This would have been fine, if Cooper was the main character, but he wasn’t. They all were the main characters and so it was disappointing to not see everyone go through that. Mackenzie had no growth whatsoever. Her character was annoying and needed to learn a lot about herself, but it was only through Cooper and his admission that she even learned anything about herself. The character of Pi was confusing and half-baked.
This story was definitely not a journey of self-discovery that many YA’s are and that this story, with the initial premise that it had, had the potential to be. It had so much potential, but it all fell flat.

Hi I’m….Wait What’s My Name?

I’ve seen a lot recently about authors discussing dealing with depression. I applaud these posts because I feel like this is something that a lot of readers also deal with. For me another equally important thing is anxiety.
The other day I attended an event and I realized that my shyness really hinders by ability to function at these things. I wanted to write this post because I know there are other bloggers out there, and readers without blogs too, who deal with this. As you will see later in this post I reached out on Twitter to see if anyone else had this problem and got some response pretty quickly.
There is nothing more amazing than getting to meet an author whose books you love and admire. I know for me it’s not just about their book, but as a writer too I am usually amazed at their ability and talent to spin a story. I’ve said this before, but authors are my rock stars. They are my movie stars. And so to have to deal with any type of anxiety or nerves really sucks.
I remember the first time I went to an event after I started my blog. There were five bloggers who had arranged to get together beforehand. I had been talking online to Marla (then from Starting the Next Chapter) for a few months beforehand, but this was also the first time I was meeting her in person. I was nervous. It was weird because I could talk to her for hours online, but the second we got in person. Awkward. We made it to Nashville (3.5hrs for me. 1.5 hrs for her) and got to Panera to meet the other bloggers. We met up with Shalena, Writer Quirk, Megan, Myth-Illogical, and Lauren, The Housework Can Wait and immediately….my mouth was sewed shut and like Gandalf shouting “You shall not pass!” to the balrog in Moria no words passed my lips that entire dinner.

When standing in line to get books signed I spend the entire time (and usually the entire car ride to Nashville) coming up with things to say in my head. “Oh my gosh I love your book! I love this character or I love that character! This was my favorite part!” I rehearse it over and over again in my head with a little bit of, “Marla I don’t think I can do this!” to which she usually tells me to calm down and it will go fine.
Then the second I get in front of the author I freeze. My heart starts racing and my entire body is fighting my flight response to fight or flight. My eyes are wide. My face goes red. Sometimes my mouth hands open in an O on it’s own accord. And of course, none of those carefully scripted words I worked so hard to memorize some out of my mouth. Not even the simple “hello” that began all potential sentences.

Sometimes authors are really cool and have one of two reactions. They either don’t feel the awkwardness or they understand that you are shy. These are the best. There are also two other good reactions. When the author signs the book and I move on too quickly to have any awkwardness. The downside is you don’t get to talk to them at all. Then sometimes the author can tell when someone is shy and they start the conversation. Even though I feel like the convo is all about me, I still feel like I am having a conversation with an author I admire.
My most feared reaction is the stare and unfortunately this happens most often. When I get to the front of the line (and at the most recent even I spent 3hrs waiting!) and my mouth hands open because it wants to speak words so badly, but it can’t and the author just stares with wide eyes and doesn’t say anything. I take this to mean the author is also nervous and probably shy. When this happens the only thing going through my mind is, “Think. Think. Think. Think. Think!!!” Trying to think of something (anything!) to say instead of standing there looking like an idiot. Like I said, I always have the conversations in my head. My favorite scenes or elements that I dream of discussing with them and questions I’ve been dying to ask. Then it all falls short.
You all know I love Jodi Meadows. I have been talking to Jodi on twitter for two years (poor soul lol). Twitter I have no problem communicating through. This is a book series I love! And yet the second I got in front of her I could say nothing. After a few seconds of bug eyed staring I blurted out, “I’m Hannah!” as if she was magically supposed to know that I was the same Hannah who harasses her with twitter conversations all the time. After that nothing was said. This event was two years in the making and I blew it.

I didn’t do a write up about the Southern Festival of Books this year, but it was incredible. Through a series of events I was able to meet one of my childhood authors. When I was growing up there were two authors that I read all the books two. J.K. Rowling (duh) and Margaret Peterson Haddix. Margaret happened to be friends with Sharon Cameron. The two of them along with J.J. Howard (she is the sweetest!) and Shalena and I got to spend most of the night together. We hung out at a lounge together, went to an event at a fancy hotel with really beautiful views of Nashville, and then went to this little Italian eatery for dinner. We spent hours together. I had dreamed of questions to ask Margaret since I was nine and I first started reading her books and now I finally had the chance. And wouldn’t you know it? Not one word was uttered from my mouth that night. SOOOOOO many things I could have said to her. So many! But the words were stuck in my throat.
It’s so frustrating to go to events and not be able to talk and wanting to so badly. The words right there on the tip of my tongue fighting viciously to come out and they never do. So those are some of my experiences.

After reaching out to other bloggers online two women were able to give me some more perspective.

Danie from The Bookish Brunette.
Okay, so I’m the strangest person ever. I’m normally an extrovert, bubbly, outgoing, open, all of that. You kind of have to be for my job (Pre-K teacher). But for some reason, at signings, I clam up. I don’t know why? I think the one that sticks out most in my mind is meeting Sherrilyn Kenyon. I was so excited to meet her. I talked about it for WEEKS. I mean…it’s freaking Sherrilyn Kenyon! So I get to the signing, and then when it’s my turn, all I say is “hi” and “thank you.” I mean…REALLY!?

Another example is when I drove 11 hours to go meet Brigid Kemmerer. Thankfully, she and I have talked on Twitter a few times, so I had no fear talking to her – if I’m driving 11 hours to meet someone you can bet I’ll say more than “hi”! But I was also super stoked to meet a couple bloggers that I knew lived in the area. And then when I got there, and saw all of them, I couldn’t say anything. Ugh.

I also feel really awkward if I get chosen to ask a question. I always feel like they’ll think it’s a ridiculous question (most recently at the Pitch Dark Days tour stop with Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Rossi, Kristen White, and Sophie Jordan). And then I don’t know what to do while everyone, including the author, is looking at me, making full-on eye-contact. Do I look back? Stare at the ceiling? Stare at my hands? How do I sit? THE PRESSURE.

Megan from Myth-Illogical

I definitely suffer from anxiety on a day-to-day basis, and when I’m at special events is no exception. I can be pumped beyond belief to be heading to a book signing of a favorite author, and then when I’m standing in front of them, suddenly my mind goes blank .

I want to make a connection with the author. I want to say, “Hey, I follow you on Twitter/Facebook/Tumblr/wherever and I think you are really awesome, and your writing is amazing. I would like to be your friend and maybe absorb some of your awesome/amazing through osmosis.” But then I realize that probably sounds kinda creepy, so I just get my book signed and smile and thank them and walk away, feeling a little disappointed in myself for not saying SOMETHING.

Last year, Neil Gaiman came to my area and I made the trip with a friend to go see him. He gave an outstanding presentation, and at the end we got the chance to get books signed. They called us up randomly by rows for the signing, and the whole time I just sat there thinking, “What on earth can you say to Neil Gaiman? “

Everything I came up with sounded stupid, and, as usual, slightly creepy. I sat there with my friend for hours – I forget how many. Four? Five, maybe? — we were in the VERY last section to be called up. As the last of us snaked our way down the hall to the signing area, I could feel the familiar tightening of my throat and increased heartbeat, worse than before because I was about to meet a very famous author.

When my turn came, I handed him my books and waited as he signed my name that his assistants had already pre-written on a post-it note to save time. As he finished scrawling his name in my second book, I took a breath and forced some words out: “Thank you SO much for staying so late for us. I really appreciate it.” (By this time I think it was close to 1 a.m. and the event had started before sunset.)

He looked up at me, smiled, and thanked me for not rioting for having to wait for so long. That night I walked away feeling proud of myself. I’d exchanged a couple of sentences with a world-famous author – and hadn’t said a single weird thing to him. Maybe there’s hope for me after all.

What about you guys? How do you feel at events? One of my friends doesn’t get nervous at all and I am so jealous of her. What side of the spectrum to do you fall into?

The Will and the Forest- Review

Title: The Will and the Forest, Episode 1: Exodus
Author: Demar
Publisher: Self-pubbed
Publication Date: February 10, 2014
Source: Author

It is a world of knights, pirates, warlords, and squires. But for eleven year-old Herbert, such heroes exist only in children’s books and in toys carved from pinecones. Until one spring morning that is, when Herbert is greeted by a mysterious creature with a cryptic message.

What’s odd is that the owlbat delivering the note shouldn’t rightly exist, not since the Ruby Wars anyways. And the letters on the note are written in ancient Erdel—the lost language of the ancients who vanished over six thousand years ago. Stranger still? The ink is fresh, still damp from the night previous.

As Herbert and the mysteriously old bookkeeper Ms. Opal unravel secrets of the past, Herbert’s first great adventure begins and takes him where he is wary to go—into the pine forest, where an old sage with strange abilities dwells. And with rumors of a warlord marching from the north, and the arrival of merchant pirates at the village Harbor, Herbert’s simple life is about to change forever.

Fortunately Herbert is not without companions, and has good friends close around him: Donaldson, the acrobatic orphan living on the rooftops, and Ashlund, the Mayor’s daughter with a secret past who is ready to run away and leave the village forever.

Join Herbert’s quest in this new fantasy book series as he learns firsthand what it takes to be a true hero, and begins to discover in himself perhaps the greatest mystery of all—The Will— a powerful force in the universe, which has long been forgotten by mankind. While the age of willers is past, and the earth lay in a slumber, the time for awakening is arrived.
Whether you’re a mother looking for great books for boys, or a fantasy fan who loves a good-hearted adventure, The Will Sagas are sure to please and delight. It’s a new fantasy book series for all ages full of action, excitement, humor and love.

The Will and the Forest was one action packed book. It took until about halfway through for the ball to get rolling, but once it did it never stopped. One of the things that I love about reading is the chance to read about adventures and this was definitely one of those books.
What I Liked:
The writing. Demar has a very strong writing ability. His sentences were tight and put together. Everything made sense and there wasn’t anything in there that didn’t make sense. The diction was strong and matched perfectly to the world that was created. The way that the characters spoke was unique to each character and accurate. It’s easy for an author to say that a character has an accent or speaks a certain way, but it’s a little harder to actually show how they are speaking and enable the reader to image exactly how they sound just by the words on the pages.
The world building. I felt like this was strong world building. The myths, the locations, the histories all of them felt natural in the story. What I loved even more about this was there was no info dumping. Everything the reader needed to know came in a natural course and wasn’t shoved down the readers throats every other paragraph.
It kind of reminded me of Lord of the Rings. No there isn’t a ring that needs to be destroyed with only one mountain that can do it. But there is a Gandolf character. And a Frodo. And I can argue that there is even an Aragorn. I’ll let you guys figure out how is who. It’s not fun if I give it away for you. But I feel like Tolkien is one of the best examples of a fantasy adventure epic and if I can pick out elements of that in a book then it’s on the right path.
There is more going on than there appears. There is A LOT going on in this book. There are several different stories all going on at once. It’s going to be interesting to see how it continues on.

What I Didn’t Like:
There is more going on than there appears. While on one hand this was something I liked. Plot wise. Character wise it was a little much for me. There were so many characters we kept flipping through all at once that it got confusing at times. I almost had to do what Stephen King does and write out a character list to keep everyone straight. I think the story could have been a little tighter without flipping through so many different characters.
I couldn’t tell what age group this is for. Age group is really important for marketing of the book. The book was pitched to me as Young Adult Fantasy…and it wasn’t. Because of the way the characters were introduced to me, Herbert because the main character. The problem with that is he is only 11. It can’t be a young adult book with an 11 year old as the main character. This is part of the reason why it took me so long to become invested in the book. As I already said it took until about half way through for things to really get rolling. A big part of that was because I couldn’t connect to Herbert. That being said, this book also isn’t really a middle grade either. While Herbert’s story is a perfect example of middle grade the inclusion of the older characters takes it out of that. There are also a few instances where words I wouldn’t have deemed appropriate for children were used. In the story these words seemed natural coming from the mouths or minds of the children, but I am pretty sure a large majority of parents would frown at their children using the word “pisser” in normal conversations.
*EDIT* I have been informed the final copy of the book has replaced these words. *EDIT*
So my biggest complaint about this book is that the age group is really unclear. You have the story of the three boys making it middle grade. Then the story of the pirates and Ashlund making it young adult. It’s meshing together two things that don’t naturally go together in my opinion. They may be just a few years apart from each other, but younger kids and teenagers have completely different growing lessons. Herbert’s really focuses on getting beat up. Ashlund’s focuses on finding her own place in the world and mapping out independence. Separate those stories would be wonderful. Shoved together it’s just a little hard to read.
Did I Like It? There are gorgeous pictures throughout the book. On one hand I really enjoyed this book and I think it enhanced the story. On the other hand it made it really kiddish. So…this part I am torn on.

Over all I really did enjoy this book. I would definitely recommend it to other people to read and discover for themselves. I’ll be looking forward to reading the second.