Category Archives: Book Thoughts

Location… Location… Location…. Does It Matter?

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Fellow readers… we can talk right?  We have that “love for books thing” in common, and if I may be so bold… we do enjoy hunkering down to a really good read.  Now while traditions and props may differ almost like a set up for a game of Clue…. 

In the recliner, favorite blanket, bowl of popcorn

on the deck, in the sun, large glass of iced tea

at the library, in a sunny window, feet propped at a 30 degree angle

in the living room, on the couch, surrounded by cheese,crackers,grapes and a glass of wine…

we can probably all agree that not much compares to digging into that book that fully takes you inside the story line… blood, sweat and tears… you are ALL IN.

Which brings me to my point….

If a book is not clear about where it is locally centered, is that a bump in the read for you?  If you do not know if you are reading about a smoldering California summer or a wintry bout in Alaska… does the book miss something?

I ask because I fall into the I want to know category.  I like to know where I am reading, it is a part of my level of involvement with the book, placing me into a deeper sense of knowing where I am and what that might feel like.  In some books, location is such a large part of the book, it almost becomes a character in itself…

Even dystopian reads can give you a feel for where you are, even if the world is no longer as know it… take Hunger Games for instance.

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I love this visual of what the districts look like and what states they encompass.

And even though I do prefer knowing States or countries, I am even ok with an area being described as, “in the south” or “way up North”, at least that gives me something.  Although I do love the brave authors that put us right into a city and state ;) )

For todays bookish topic of discussion I am curious if this love of knowing where I am at geographically is more of a “yeah that’s just you Sheila”, or is it a “I agree, I like to know where I am in a book”.

And since this is the topic at hand (or at keyboard)….

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When Paper Hits The Road ( a moment of heartbreak)

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My heart lays heavy.

Recently I was asked if I would be interested in being a part of a new group of readers in the area that would preview books to see that they are appropriate for middle grade and teenage children.  I liked the thought of that, I have done some of this proofing for friends in the past.  As the information unfolded I discovered that this group would work at having books that they decided were deemed unsatisfactory for young eyes to be removed from the schools.

:shock:

Visions of book burning swam before my eyes.  This is when I realized there is a difference between book lovers, lovers of the written word – and readers.

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There was a particular book that was already being sought out for removal I was told.  A book filled with inappropriate language. I started to think what YA book could have caused such a stir… was it Hunger Games, Twilight, certainly we have moved beyond Harry Potter by now….

and then I was told the book’s title,

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

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At this point my heart fell.  Steinbeck.  A Classic. Banned Books. Censorship.

I called a friend, a fellow book lover and someone I know who takes great care with what she has her children read (ages 7 – 14) to ask her thoughts on this and she was shocked.  She said what I needed to hear at that moment, that it is up to us as parents of our younger children to help them choose books and to help them understand when a book may not be a fit for them due to language, sexual content…  or EVEN why a book was written that way – perhaps it was the time period…. The answer is not to take the books away…

the answer is not censorship.

Of course, Of Mice and Men is not new to this battle.  Published in 1937, this book is one of the most challenged books of the 21st century due to the vulgarity,offensive, and racist language  within its pages.   And while I am not a fan of the language – the story does cover such topics as friendship and bullying – BULLYING. A topic that is huge today.

Please chime in on this one.  I would love to know your thoughts. 

Book Club People – How Do You Choose Your Books?

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Recently I was reading an awesome post of Elizabeth’s at Silvers Reviews and she was talking about book club books.  She was saying that her book club puts book choices for a year in to a bowl and each month they draw out of the bowl and choose their next read.  She said this kept people from becoming hurt if their book was not chosen as everyone has a title in the bowl.

For us (The Bookies!)  We have had a tried and true system that I really enjoy since we began in 2001. We encourage each person to bring a book suggestions with them to the group.  When it is time to pick we go around and everyone who brought a suggestion gets a chance to give a little description of the book.  We ask that it follows this criteria:

  1. It should be a newer release (unless it is classic month) as there are 18 of us and we have to find copies

  2. It can be paperback or hard cover as long as it is under $15

  3. If you can share where to find it and at what cost that is a plus (such as “the library has 4 copies in book and also an audio version” or “Target currently has this one for $8.99 and there are about 12 copies available.”

 

When the nominees are in we go around the room and we each have two votes.  The two votes stems back to when we were a very small group and we didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings; the two vote thing sticks to this day. :)

The book with the most votes is what we read for the next month.  In the event of a tie, the decision goes to the Queen (oh and that is another post entirely….hee hee)

I like our system as we are not eliminating the possibility of choosing a book that just came out or to our attention.

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If you are in a book club or reading group, how do you choose what you will be reading?  It seems like every one I talk to has a different way of doing it and I am fascinated by all the ideas out there. 

Please share here how your book club picks its books :D

Is It Just Me or Are Some Book Pitches Getting a Little Crazy?

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As book bloggers, book reviewers, book chatters… whatever you want to call us, it seems if you do this any amount of time you will get book pitches.  A book pitch is when an author or publisher or book tour company emails you and gives you the synopsis of the book hoping that you will like what you see and agree to read and review it.

Oh…. if only it were that easy!  I have a separate email for all my book related email due to the fact that at times it can really be overwhelming when you are receiving many pitches in a day and you are trying to pick out what you would like to read and then review. 

Lately, I have seen a new type of book coming through my email and I curious about what you think about these.  What I am referring to is a book that starts out sounding interesting, say the book is about a college graduate, (ok, so far so good) and she is on her way to intern as an assassin under her uncles care (ummm… ok, different but I am still reading)… she is taking with her the household pet, a duck named Killer, and hopefully leaving behind the guy who makes her heart skip a beat, Jamal the tap dancing Eskimo who only speaks in haiku (and… I’m out.)

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It is like they start out sounding like they have potential and by the time I am done reading the synopsis my eyes are wide in disbelief and I can not believe how far-fetched the book being pitched has become.  I mean, seriously???  Does this sell?  Is it just me who can’t stretch that far?  I mean, I don’t know maybe I am missing out, these are not all  coming from self published authors either but Publishing houses.

I wouldn’t even bring this up if it was a one time email but I have had a few of these recently… good start to the book synopsis and then it is like they went all Jerry Springer on me and I am wondering if there is a “baby daddy” involved and looking over my shoulder for tattooed tutu wearing midget’s playing banjo’s.

My point here…. is it me?  Are you receiving these as well? 

Thoughts?  Please share.  :razz:

January Recap and WHERE Are You Reading Link Up

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January was a great month here at Book Journey for books and audio.  It has been a long time since I have had such a good month.  I end with this last day of January with 12 reads completed and reviewed,  Here is what they were:

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The Road by Cormac McCarthyckson

Between The Lines by Jodi Piccoult

In The Belly Of Jonah by Sandra Brannan

Gods In Alabama by Joshilyn Jackson

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Will To Murder by Gail Feichting

Ashes by Ilsa Bick

The Gilly Sisters by Tiffany Baker

A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard

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GONE by Randy Wayne White

Murder Of The Century by Paul Collins

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans

Born This Way by Paul Vitagliano

For best of the month, I would say do not pass on Gods In Alabama, The Gilly Salt Sisters and Level 2.

Here is my WHERE I have been reading so far this year.  If you are participating in the WHERE Are You Reading Challenge, please add your recap post to the linky below:

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Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

 

Have you read any of these books?  What was your best reads of January?

Audio Books – Abridged or Unabridged Whats the Difference?

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Recently Alyce at At Home With Books had in a post how she accidentally listened to an abridged audio of a book.  “Whew” I thought,” I am not always good at checking the packaging but that has never happened to me.”

I have been listening to On Mystic Lake by Kristin Hannah and just being annoyed to no end with it.  Fellow book lovers who know I am listening to it were saying, “Ooh that is such a good one” and I kept thinking, “Really?  You have got to be kidding me.”

SO what’s my problem with it….

Well for one it moves at a ridiculous speed, as in long-lost friends go from grieving a friend and wife to flat-out RELATIONSHIP in one encounter.  The whole audio is moving so quickly I am feeling there is no character development…

(you can probably see where I am going here…)

Then today I was driving into work and yet another thing happened  while I was listening to this audio, it felt like it skipped an entire section.  One moment she is sharing a big happening in her life while they are in bed, and the next sentence it is days later.  And then… like a very dim light bulb, I started to get it.  I reached for the packaging and sure enough ….

abridged.

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WHAMMY.

Double whammy actually because I just told Alyce what a rock star I was and that had never happened to me….

*headsmack*

So…. that brings me to this post.  Why do they make abridged audio?  To me it is like picking up the Cliff Notes to a book…. you get the basic idea enough to talk about the book (sort of) but you don’t get the heart of it. 

When I looked up information today on abridged books it said they were created for publishers to be able to offer the book at a lesser price.  But are they really offering you the book?  Or… are they metaphorically ripping out the middle of the books pages and handing you a copy saying, “Here you go, fresh off the bargain table!”  :razz:

I am truly clueless here and not at all trying to diss the abridged audio put out there or those who create them or listen to them.  Obviously there is a reason I am not picking up on .

I am curious about your thoughts on this.  Do you read abridged books and if so, what benefits do you find to them?  Is listening to an abridged book the equivalent of Cliff Notes? 

Thank you Alyce, for inspiring this post. :D  If you had not recently talked about this on your blog, I would probably still be ranting about this audio. 

* I have also noticed that the other Kristin Hannah I have unopened in the car ready to listen to next… is also abridged.  *sigh*

 

The Bremer Library and Literacy Leadership Institute (and me)

 

Last week I was thrilled to be a part of the initiative for this new program to build the strength and integrity of libraries and literacy programs throughout the state of Minnesota.  6 libraries and 6 Literacy partnership  agencies were chosen to partake in this institute.  3 people were sent from each area, I represented the Brainerd Library along with the Librarian and another Library employee.

The institute was this past Thursday and Friday.  It involves another weekend in November, an assessment in January, and a wrap up in May of 2013.  To be a part of the Institute you have to be available each step of the way. 

 

Our common goal? 

“The foundation funding of $388,540 will support an initiative to strengthen the leadership of rural libraries and literacy organizations in order to enhance the service these organizations provide to their communities. The initiative will offer training sessions to small cohorts of library and literacy leaders on critical aspects of running a rural library or literacy organization, from budgeting and board development to strategic planning and cultural competency.”

as seen on the Otto Bremer Foundation site

Our first day we spent going over our strengths as individuals.  We all had taken the Strength Finders test as past of this group (I reviewed this book a while back and if you have never took the test I highly recommend it – it is enlightening – the code to take the test is sealed in the back on of the book).  They then explained the strengths and how they work together with those in our own groups, as well as with other in the Institute.  I had taken this test over a year ago for work and it was fun to do it again and see how my strengths lined up this second time:

My current top 5 are:

 

Strategic:  (Talent driven, these people are innovative, inventive, original, and resourceful. 

 

Arranger:  (someone who can take the role of team leader or team player as needed, arranging ideas in a creative way people with these strengths tend to come up with more ideas for brainstorming)

 

Maximizer:  (someone who sees something good, and has the skills and ambition to make it even better.  By nature these people enjoy taking full advantage of their talents, enjoy playing games for fun.)

 

Adaptability:  (A free spirit who is seldom thrown off task by unexpected events and comments.  Instead you react to things as they occur.  You are quite comfortable at letting the future unfold at its own pace.  You do better if you are free to respond to demands as they arise.  Understandably you dislike being forced to follow someone else’s plan of action. 

 

Empathy:  (You are aware of the fluctuating moods of individuals.  You can adjust your responses by how the persons mood is set.  You may be known as a giver, not a taker.  You sense when someone could use assistance. 

 

It really is quite fun!

That evening we had a dinner where they sat us together by our top strengths.  I was with a table of Strategic people and we had questions we would answer as table discussion.  It was interesting to get to know the other participants. 

On Friday we switched gears and had discussion on raising money which normally is not something I enjoy but a particular discussion had me taking notes like crazy, talking to people afterwards for more information, lining up a phone meeting and well… I dont want to say too much right now but I hopeful that I am on to something that could be rather exciting and raise funds next year for our Library and Literacy programs locally. 

Maybe.

Hopefully.

:D

As Friday went on we had the lunch speaker, author Kao Kaila Yang who I wrote about on Saturday.  Later in the day we spent time discussing goals with our assigned mentors who will be guiding up through this seven month process. 

I really enjoyed my time working with this institute and learning more about our local Library and how it functions as well as the literacy obstacles we need to overcome as a state (funding cuts in schools, etc…)  It really is an honor to be a part of this and I will keep you informed each step of the way. 

Here is some more information on what we are doing. 

Waiting On John Green (Write John write!!!)

 

 

It started in late June of this year.  I was just back from BEA (Book Expo of America) for a few weeks and had been staring down that copy of The Fault In Our Stars for far too long.  It was starting to feel like summer and I was in the mood to try this author I had heard so much about.  I opted to go audio with this one as life was already getting active and audio works better for me in the busy summer days. 

I will never forget that I finished listening to The Fault In Our Stars from the back on my husbands motor cycle on the fourth of July…. crying.  Now before you say, “Uh no thanks Sheila, why would I put myself through a painful book about young people dying of cancer!”, let me remind you that you would also probably never wanted to read the Hunger Games, a book about kids killing kids.  BUT – if you read Hunger Games, chances are you loved it (if you haven’t you are missing out – but that is a whole other post for a whole other day… :razz:).  What I am saying is that The Fault In Our Stars is blow you away good and one of the best audio books I have listened to this year and I am certain it would also be one of the best books.

 

And so, it was on the Fourth Of July that I finished The Fault In Our Stars, and began listening to Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  While Will Grayson x 2 took a little longer for me to get the flow of, I was soon loving it as well… listening to it throughout my day and while mowing the lawn.  I now knew that John Green was not a one hit wonder.  He has a knack for creating characters that are smart, and witty, and bookish, and even a bit geeky and all things I LOVE.  And so my book love affair with John Green grew….

 

 

Now on a John Green self-appointed read-a-thon I found my way to Looking For Alaska, and find myself in a college setting of characters alive and “college style daring” – pranks and rule breaking and I am now even more infatuated with these fun and flawed characters that have been brought to life through John Green’s imagination and created through his fingertips as they are written out on paper and tapped out on keyboards. 

 

Then in August I finished up listening to Paper Towns and found that Margo reminded me a bit of Alaska, reckless…. but Margo even more so in a self-centered sort of way that fascinated and annoyed me all at once.  Margo did not make the book for me but the other characters did and that is another brilliant thing about John Green’s characters… there may be a main character, but all of his other characters play big supporting roles and you see that throughout all his books but can really see it and feel it in this one.

 

 

An Abundance Of Katherine’s was an impracticable story (really… only dating girls names Katherine?) BUT – in John Greens way with words… this did not matter.  I loved this one for the sheer joy of listening to the characters come alive, for laughing out loud about crazy scenes (really… a wild boar?) and just because John Green makes me smile.   This is also my second encounter with John Green where he uses two characters who share a name and something about that… seems smart, like why would you do that?  And more importantly… why wouldn’t you do that? 

 

 

And so now here I am…. going Green… but I seem to be out of books.  :shock:  Yes, I know he has a Christmas read, but I can not read Christmas books when the temps outside remain in the 80′s.  That one will have to wait.  It’s hard to explain all the wonderfulness of John Green’s writing.  He is extremely quote worthy.   You will be reading along this funny YA read and suddenly something written will give you pause.  You find yourself tucking it away in your brain files or writing it down on the scrap peace of mail that is closest to you so you can refer back to it later. 

 

SO John Green, this message is to you.  Are you writing something new?  How long must I wait for this work of awesomeness?  Is there anything I can do to help move this process along?  Bring you coffee?  Mow your lawn?  Walk your dog?  Send you manilla envelopes filled with gum wrappers with potential character names written on them?  Talk to me. 

Sheila

How To Build A Better Blog

I just celebrated my third year of book blogging.  Who knew that in June of 2009 when I put together a few random thoughts on books that three years later I would still be doing this… and loving it. 

Throughout the years I have made many blogging blunders… shoot, I still do.  I do for the most part really like what I am doing now and how I am doing it.  I thought, if I may, I would share with you some of the trials and errors I have learned from through the years for anyone who would like to know how I pulled together Book Journey.  Take from this what you can, leave what you don’t want or need.

Please note – above all else, I am no expert.  I am sharing my thoughts on how I built up my own blog and that may not be the way you would do it, want to do it, or even agree that I know what I am talking about. :razz:  I am sure in some cases, this has been said before, in other ways, on other blogs.  What I am talking about here may not even apply to the way you host your blog, and I respect that.  I encourage you to add your own thoughts on this topic in the comments, things that you can add that I did not, and yes, even things you may now agree with.

1.  The Blog Name

For those of you who have followed me since the early years you may remember this blog was originally called One Persons Journey Through A World Of Books.  Mmmmm hmmmm… say that baby three times fast.  :razz:  It remained that from June 2009 – April 2010.  It wasn’t until I was considering making business cards for my first book expo that I really took into consideration what a mouthful that was.  My blog address already was bookjourney, my twitter name was bookjourney, it seamed logical to trim up that title, and after a little chat survey on Twitter, found that it was not only acceptable, many agreed with me. 

The point?  Long blog names are hard to remember,  a mouthful, and if you are planning to partake in bookish events where you are meeting authors, publishers, etc…its a lot easier to have a shorter blog name. 

2.  Side Bar Loving!

My original blog had two sidebars… if I could put it in the sidebar, I did.  Meme’s, pictures of authors I had chatted with, links and pictures to challenges I was participating in, links to other bloggers, contests, pictures, An about me that ran down the right side a good 10-12 inches…..

You can see that some of that remains to this day.  I do think sidebars can serve a wonderful purpose.  Have a post that drove lots of traffic to the blog that you hate to see get buried?  This is a great place to link it.  Blogs you frequent, I actually like this on blogs as if I enjoy reading someones blog and they link blogs they enjoy on their sidebar, I know chances are I will enjoy those blogs too.  However – you will also notice I now have one sidebar instead of two and I love it.  Why?  Many reasons…. it is a cleaner looking blog for one, I think my blog today looks more professional than my blog of past years.  For another reason, it makes the main space, your posting space – BIGGER.  I like that to, after all, that is what draws in your readers, not what you have on your side bars.. but what YOU are writing about.  The post should be what captures the eye. 

Oh and one more thing on sidebars, try to keep them current.  This is one I still have to watch… take down links to old contests and to blogs that are no longer active. 

3.  I wrote this incredible post… and no one is reading it…

Ugh.  I remember those early days.  I felt (IMO) that I had written something very read worthy.  I wanted people to read it and comment.  I didn’t know how to make that happen so here is what I did…. we have to remember as much as we want people to comment on our posts, other bloggers want that too.  We all write and want to talk books, I have not ever heard a blogger say… “I really don’t want people to comment”.  I will tell you right now… I do.  I want to know if you loved the same book I did or hated it, I want to chat with you about like reading tastes, or books that are suggested to me.  I smile when I open my email and see I have comments to read on my posts.  I do!

So – here (now that I get back on subject) is how I grew readers.  I commented.  A LOT.  I would go and read blogs and comment on what they were talking about.  I would click on the blogs on their sidebar that they read and comment there as well (See?  That does work on sidebars, I still do that occasionally!)  I would set a goal of trying to comment on twenty blogs a day – don’t be scared, I find I do not have time to do that consistently anymore…LOL.  My point is, that many of those whose blogs I commented on would come and visit me as well.  It’s true… I grew a readership, by being a good commenter.  My hope was if they would visit me, they would read something they enjoyed enough to want to come back again….

and that what I just said is important, and leads me to my next point.  :D

4.  What ever do I post about…

Ok…. its go time.  You are working on your readership, but when they arrive, you want to have something good front and center for them to ponder.  It’s like… you are inviting company over.  Most of us do a few things to our home before we do that.  I, for instance, usually do a few extras before I invite people over to my home.  I might dust the furniture.  I for sure straighten up my piles of books and notes that are usually all over the place.  I most likely will put out some refreshments.  I want my guests to feel at home.  Welcome. 

Now think of that in blog terms.  Before I would go out commenting and seeking readership, I made sure that whatever was the current post on my blog was one I wanted people to read and partake in discussing.  I would have up a discussion post I was particularly proud of, or a review that I felt was timely and could create a buzz.  I wanted people who came, perhaps for the first time to my blog, to make a note to come again.  It’s not an exact science, but that is how I did it.

5.  To meme or not to meme… that really is a good question. 

Meme’s.  Some people love them.  Others do not.  Are they a great way to drive traffic?  You bet.  Are they all you should blog about?  Absolutely not. 

Meme’s serve a great purpose and can be a lot of fun.  I host the Monday, What Are You Reading? meme and love the people I have met through it who, as I had hoped, many have become regular readers.  That meme has brought many people to Book Journey through the years and for that I am grateful.  In fact in the early months I participated in many memes, which is fine – I would just encourage you to make sure you are not more memes that content.

What do I mean?  If you are only doing memes or the majority meme’s, what draws in readers beyond the meme?  As I mentioned above, memes are wonderful for bringing in new readers, and yes, some of those readers will only connect to you through that meme… but some, SOME will like your blog and want to come back to see what else you offer.  My suggestion is a sprinkle of meme’s is a wonderful additive to your blog, but also be sure to have posts on what your blog is about …. is it book reviews?  Then have book reviews, is it cooking?  Then be posting those great recipes!

I like to mix meme’s with posts I am writing anyway.  Alyce from At Home With Books hosts Saturday Snapshot which is posting pictures you have taken, and I tie that in with my Morning Meandering post which was going up anyway.  On Fridays, Jen at Devourer of Books hosts Sound Bytes where you can link your audio reviews.  I listen to so much audio I usually have an audio post going up anyway, and linking to her meme only helps drive more traffic to my review.  Candice at Beth Fish Reads hosts Weekend Cooking which is a great way to link up and reviews on cook books, or books that have inspired you to try to make something.  Again, for me this is not an additional post, but a post of a review and food that was going to go up anyway. 

6.  Pages.  A blogger’s best friend

Remember above I talked about cleaning up those sidebars?  A lot of that sidebar stuff is good stuff.. things you do want to keep to the forefront without it looking sloppy.  I mentioned I used to have a picture of each author I had interviewed on my sidebar.  I still want my readers to have easy access to those posts, so I created a page for them.  You will see under my header a bar that has titles like Home, About Me…. this is where I neatly can store information my readers may want access to.  Want to know more about me?  Click About me.  Curious about my review policy (and seriously, if you do not have one… get one!  Truly a lifesaver!), you can find my review policy easy enough.  And those Author interviews?  There they all are under author chats.  I also have a page to keep track of my challenges in a neat space that does not add clutter to the blog. 

I work with wordpress and do not know a lot about blogger but I believe Blogger must have pages that work similar to wordpress.  Pages are wonderful for storing information you don’t necessarily need right on the post space unless someone clicks to get to it.  I use pages for spoilers too.

7.  I want to start my own read a longs, memes, weekly discussions….

Here is where I discuss my biggest epic fail when I was a new blogger.  I loved that people were doing on their blogs… I loved the memes the regular scheduled discussions and I wanted to be a part of that.  I wanted to be original yet find ways to draw interest to the blog.  (Seriously as you are reading this you are probably thinking, “dang Sheila, take a chill pill… RELAX!”)  As in many of the projects I undertake, I wanted to really make my blog stand out…. and the things that came out of all that were things such as:  I featured a book club of the week which involved people in books clubs getting a hold of me and answering a series of questions I would send them.  Actually as I write this, I really loved that idea and still do, but what happened was I ran out of interested book clubs within about 5 weeks and so that died away.  I created Wordshakers On-line book club which I also loved the idea of, but with my work life, active life, my own book club as well… I struggled to keep up with it and eventually it too fell to the way side and now I just try to do bi-monthly read a longs.  Another, and a few of you will remember this one (Ryan, Laurel, Hannah, Alison…) I had a weekly meme called Word Balderdash where we would take the word verification from our comments and make up new meanings for them (ok that one was fun, it just never caught on…)

For giggles… here are a few of those from when this was active in 2009:

Revent: When one becomes so upset about something they have to just get it out so they vent about it.  Then…. hours later, something triggers  this anger  again and causes one to revent.

Gaspr: Casper the Ghost’s annoying cousin.  Due to Gaspr’s asma…. he is always trying to get in more air and creating breathy noises that really can ruin a good night of haunting.  Since Casper is the friendly ghost, he often is the one chosen to hang out with Gaspr.

Cercula:  Dracula’s half brother who has an inner ear infection which causes him to run in circles…. thus taking the fear factor away from potential victims as they can just…. well…… walk away.

AND my point is in talking about all of this is when you choose to start a meme or weekly discussion topic, whatever, try to be sure you are in it for the long haul. I don’t think it is bad to try new things and then they fall away, I just think I did it A LOT.

On a better note, there is one I tried that sticks to this day and that is the Morning Meanderings.  In the early days, I only talked about books and never strayed from that topic.  Then one day, I wanted to talk about crazy life happenings and I wrote a post called Morning Meanderings.  I know I told people that this was me “unplugged”.  I received email about that post from readers saying how much they liked reading about my life happenings.  When I talked about my fitness triumphs and fails in the Meanderings, they liked that too, some saying I inspired them to get out and walk in the mornings.  Mainly the meanderings were me picking on me… but readers like it.  Many tell me they love to open up their email in the morning and see what I have going on next.  The Morning Meanderings, stick to this day.

8.  Social Media – yes?  no?  Maybe?

*sigh*  I have a love hate relationship with social media.  Mainly because to me, it is ONE MORE THING.  And honestly, you don’ have to use social media, although I have to say I know it adds to my blogging relationships with other readers, and it adds to my blog.  SO that said, here is what I use that works the best for me and my limited time.  Twitter (can I get a “YEAH!”) While Twitter does take effort on my part, I can not deny that it it does build on my blogging experience.  I use Twitter to link my posts… the good ones I will tweet about several times throughout the day to capture people on-line at different times.  I only use Twitter for bookish friends… I have no other twitter account nor do I need one.  Many people have a Facebook page that connects to their blog.  I do not.  There may be value to that, I just do not see it.  One thing I can say I learned is that Pinterest is a great blog asset and thank you to Joy from Joy’s book blog sharing that information during the last Bloggiesta.  By linking your reviews on Pinterest back to your blog, Joy shared that she has seen significant traffic coming from that direction.  I actually created a Pinterest account off of that advice.

Bottom line for me on social media- if traffic driving, blog relationship building is important to you, Twitter and Pinterest are the two I suggest. 

9.  It’s Me!  Sheila!  Remember????

Blog identity.  In 2009 Natasha from Maw Books drew my attention to this.  Your blog should be identifiable to your readers.  Its funny how that works.  For me, I will be clicking over to read someones review and know where I am as I read the post due to the layout, the look, the feel of the blog.  It is funny how that throws me off when someone changes up their blog look.  I will know who’s blog I am going to and I will be reading a post when suddenly… I don’t know where I am.  Seriously.  I will quickly scroll to the top and identify the blog by the name, but the new layout will throw me off.

Now I like to change up the blog and have a history of doing this once a year, usually around Bloggiesta time when I am doing blog housekeeping and suddenly feel the need for change.  Knowing how I feel when other bloggers do that (LOST!) this time I made my header identifiable to me.  Yup… my pic is on it.  That was more strategic than anything, I don’t mean strategic like sneaky…. but I mean so when someone came to Book Journey and went “WHOA!!!  Where did I go?” When they looked at my header, they would know it was me.  I am a reviewer who posts my picture frequently due to events I am in, group pics with friends etc, that makes me identifiable (that works for me – I know that is not something everyone wants to do)…   Another cool side effect to that is, when I do things like go to BEA, people know me from my blog because they have seen what I look like.  I like striking up conversations with readers so that is a plus for me.  :D

Another thing on that blog identity… when I made my new business cards for BEA this year, I used my header on them.  My thought behind this is you can pick up a lot of business cards at BEA and other bookish events… I wanted people to be able to identify the card to the blog instantly by them all matching. 

 

 

 

 

10.  It looks like people are visiting my blog by the hits, but I am not getting a lot of comments!  (*this point was added on 6/18/12)

People are visiting.. your stats show that… but where are the comments?  This can be frustrating.  Here area few things I can think of that may help with that…

1.  Does the way you write your posts encourage comments/discussion?  On many of my posts, especially my non review ones, I ask a question at the end.  It could be if people have had a similar experience and I encourage them to share.  Try to think of ways to write your posts that encourage discussion. 

2.  Comment on the comments.  When I first started blogging an incredible blogger called J Kaye was the first blogger I seen do this.  She encouraged conversation, and when I would comment on her blog, she would respond.  This honestly, would keep me coming back to see what she had to say.  I always get excited now when I see other blogs doing that.  It created conversation.  It build up readers.  I know this isn’t for everyone, this is just something I do and enjoy doing it.  :D

3.  Take a good look at how comments work on your blog.  Is the comment area easy to see and use?  I have been on blogs where I want to comment and actually can not figure out how!  Depending on how much time I have, I will try to find the comment area, but sometimes I admit I have just given up in frustration and went away.   Bottom line:  you want to make sure commenting is easy to do if comments are something you value in your blog experience.  :D


That’s all I have.  This post was one I have wanted to write for a while, then thought nah… and then today when I thought I was sitting down to add links to posts I have put up the past few weeks, instead I started writing this.  So – use any of it if you can… this may not work for everyone, but if there is any take away from this that you can use, then I am happy to have done that much :D 

Please feel free to add things in the comments that I did not, ask any questions, or even add a different opinion to something I did write here.  :D

A Guide To BEA – What to bring, wear, do, see, money, etc…

Their definition:  BEA:  Book Expo Of America – an event that takes place yearly for book sellers, media, and publishing houses and authors all to mingle together in promoting books that will be coming out yet this year and possibly next spring.

My definition:  Heaven for Book Lovers.  

Before my love affair with book reviewing, I had never heard of BEA.  In 2010 when I first did finally hear about it and what it was… I only knew one thing…. I had to go.

For me – this was HUGE.  I didn’t plan trips alone.  I didn’t just go off on a whim, to states I had never been to before, but this had to happen.  I connected with a couple of bloggers on-line that I planned to be roommates with to cut that cost down.  And I went.  LOVED IT.  Went again in 2011….LOVED IT! And now I am on schedule to go again this next week.  I can’t explain the magic of being surrounded by books and book lovers for almost a full week.  All I can say is that if you are ever considering going, GO.  Don’t hesitate.

So what got this little girl from Central Minnesota to go to New York and feel confident enough to do it?  Well, honestly, Book Bloggers.  In 2010 a group of book bloggers decided to each take a day for a week and write a post about what to expect at BEA.  I devoured everything I could about the subject. 

I am going to pass on to you now what I learned either on my own, or through others, but all of it valuable if you are new to the BEA experience.  Some of this I wish I had known going in….  I am happy to pass it on to you and hope there is something you can take from this.

 

What to pack?

At the Expo I would suggest wearing business casual – jeans and a nice shirt, capris or springy skirts for women, cargo style pants… remember you are there representing your blog.  Pack one outfit a little dressier for an evening out… maybe a pair of dressier pants or skirt with a couple different tops. Definitely pack  comfortable shoes, even if you are like me, and wearing a heel doesn’t bother you if you are on your feet all day.  You will walk the exhibit floor many many times for hours each day.  You may be walking through New York as well to check out the sites.  Myself and Reagan walked almost everywhere… not only did it save money on taxi’s but we could see things so much better than from inside a car. 

Also – a little trick I picked up for myself, pack a couple unfolded boxes  in your suitcase and your own packing tape.  The shipping companies (I will get to them below) will charge you for the box – and if you use the post office (which I will recommend) they will also have you buy the tape. 

 

 

What to expect?

So this is a picture of me year one…. LOL, ok not exactly me, but yeah…. pretty much.  When we got to the Javits Center that first day people were lined up hours before it opened and of course, we got in line and hung out there.  When the doors did open I was pushed with the crowd into the center and right into a table where a book was jabbed into my hands.  “What is this craziness” I thought.  The book was I Am Number Four.  I had never heard of it.  Now, it is a movie….  crazy, crazy stuff…

After that – year two…. day one… looked like this:

Yup.  Reagan and I did not get in the line at all. We walked around a few exhibits on the outside of the main center.  Then we seen this abandoned Info booth with tall comfy chairs.  I told Reagan I was going to sit there, she said we shouldn’t but I said whats the worst that will happen…. they ask up to move?  The funny thing is, we started answering questions.  AND for awhile we had a line of people waiting to ask their question.  AND funnier yet, we knew the answers, so we were actually helpful…

Where is the children’s breakfast?

Where can we get maps of the exhibit area?

Where is Starbucks?

Can I still get tickets to Author breakfasts?

Where do I register?

When can I get into the exhibit hall?

My point in sharing this is to let you know to just have fun.  Once the doors open people rush in and you are in within minutes of the mob and that is much nicer. 

Once inside… have fun, everywhere you look you will find exhibits, in many cases, ARC’s of books as well.  Choose wisely… don’t hoard.  If you are not going to read it, don’t take it.  These publishing companies want to get the word out about their books and they want them in the hands of those who will do it.  Not just bloggers, but book sellers.  AND please be polite, going to the Expo is a privilege, not a right.  Say thank you when receiving a book.  Don’t push or grab.  Seriously, I seen some bad behavior from bloggers last year that was just embarrassing to all of us.  This may seem harsh – but if you are not mature enough to go….. don’t go.

Make a point to see the publishing houses that send you books.  Meet with them, introduce yourself… build on that blogger/publisher relationship. 

The books being handed out change frequently.  If you have a list of what you are hoping to receive an ARC of, watch your publishing booths for it.

Oh and the autograph area, that is so fun.  Books handed out by the authors and they are signed.  LOVE that.  Be sure to notice the box that says recommended donation per book $1.00. 

Of course – you will see bloggers too…. but that… is another topic. :D

Oh yeah, and I know this post is late so I apologize, a business card is wonderful to put into publishing houses hands that you want to connect with, as well as exchanging with the bloggers you meet.  I get mine through Vista Prints…. 500 cards, custom two-sided…. $34.00

Authors, and Publishers, and Bloggers…. oh my!

One of the best things I was told that first year I attended was to not overbook yourself.  As a newbie to New York I had an agenda…. I wanted to see an exhibit, I wanted to go to a show…

That first year one on my roommates and I (*waves at Esme from Chocolates and Croissants*), stayed an extra day after everything ended.  That was the best thing I did. 

The reason you do not want to overbook yourself with commitments too early is that new offers may come up.  You could meet up with a group of bloggers friends who all want to go out to dinner, or you may get an invite to hang out with authors or publishers and it would be sad if your favorite author invited you to come and hang out with a group and you have to bow out because you have tickets to Wicked…. (not that Wicked would not be incredible to see on Broadway!)  :razz:

Both years that I have attended I have had something going on every night and occasionally two things.  The publishing houses have get together, I went to dinner with my roommates and a group of new authors which was so much fun because they had questions for us like how to do giveaways or promote their books which was so cool because one of those authors has since made a movie deal with that first book.  AWESOME.  I also connected with many other bloggers who would get together for dinner…. oh and that bonus day?  I took in the Harry Potter Exhibit, and the first year seen Mama Mia, and last year Mary Poppins.  :D

And still… I bought a ticket for my first time this year to an authors breakfast and two weeks later received an invite to a brunch being hosted by one of the publishing houses… same day and same time as the author breakfast.   Uhh… yeah, I am going to the brunch.  :lol:

**Absolutely make time to connect with your fellow book bloggers…. it is so fun to meet in person and you could make friends for life.  (Reagan (Miss Remmers Reviews) called me this past February on my birthday and sang to me over the phone)….. priceless.

 

 

Make a Schedule and check it twice!

Packing a little notebook/agenda with you is a great idea.  You can capture information for upcoming books, and addresses for possible meet ups.  It is useful for putting where you need to be and when.  When you are invited to Publishing houses you want to have the times written down and addresses…. this will also help you so you don’t double book or you can at least look at times to events if you need to try to make two…

Seriously, BEA and all that surrounds it makes me laugh and say “Is this really my life, dinner with authors and cocktails with Publishers?  :D

 

 

Stretching the dollars!

That first time I was going to BEA a friend of mine here in Brainerd told me “Food is expensive there, you can easily spend $50+ on a meal.  That freaked me out a bit.  Well, I can honestly tell you that yes, if you want to go out and have a great New York experience, you certainly can and find high price and meals worth taking pictures of (uhhh…. I have), however I found prices to be not that different from where I live here.  Your going out to a nice dinner (without drinks) will cost between $8 and $20.  You can also stop and pick up a slice of pizza or a burger for a few bucks…

In the hotels I stayed in the past two years they had continental breakfast so I would eat there and grab an extra banana or apple for my bag I carried to the Javits Center.  The Javits has food available but it is a bit pricey!  I would recommend bringing a bottle of water with you and maybe an energy bar or granola.  Outside the Javitz and not too far walking distance are many restaurants that are nice too for a lunch break and a chance to sit down. 

Also – coffee drinkers like me, grab your joe on the way to the Javits… the line that wraps around Starbucks in the early start up hours has been known to be up to a 40 minute wait.  Been there.. done that….


 

How do I get my books home?

No doubt even if you are new to the BEA experience, you have heard about the wonderful opportunity to take home some much coveted reads?  As you travel the hallways and aisles you will pick up some books.  I can not even imagine any book lover being able to pass on  them all… and that leads to the next question… how do you get them home?

The Javits Center offers Fed Ex and UPS in the building for your convenience.  On the main floor you will find Fed Ex and I think the first box (and only box) I sent through them that first year was a standard size box and I paid around $45 to have that shipped.  My next box I took downstairs (by where you register that first day) and that is UPS.  The beauty of UPS is that they let you grab a box in the morning (no charge) and fold it tape it and write your name all over it and leave it down there on a long table and you can add to it all day long.  Once full, they have people right there that will assist you and ship it.  That 2nd box cost me around $32.00.

Then… I learned that there was a post office not all that far from the Javits.  You can fill up a book bag or two and then go to the post office and ship from there.  (This is where the tape and boxes I mentioned in your packing come in).  For a large size box at the post office with insurance I paid around $18.00 media mail.  It takes a few days longer that UPS or Fed Ex but by the end of the week I returned home, the boxes were there.   Here is a link to a map of the are around the Javits.

That’s about all I have for now.  I am sorry I am posting this so close to event time… I have been planning it for weeks but life and stuff… :D 

For those who have gone before, please add any advice you can think of to the comments below.  I appreciate your input and I am sure I am forgetting much :D

Oh and one more thing, remember that year two picture of Reagan and I at the info booth, over an hour later the dude that was scheduled to be working there showed up and I got a picture:

Oh and P.S.  If you are going and want to connect, let me know.  I am going to email out my cell number to my regular readers who wish to meet.

Here are a couple other BEA posts I have seen recently:

Miss Remmers Reviews

The 3 R’s Blog

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