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Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Opposite of Loneliness | Marina Keegan

We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness, but if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”

Genre: Essays/Short Stories.
Number of Pages: 208.
Perspective: Alternating.

This book is a collection of short stories and essays gathered by Marina’s professors and family after her death. She died in a car accident shortly after she graduated from Yale and was set to work for The New Yorker. For a complete summary, you can go here.

I had so much hope for this book. The title made me think this was going to be an uplifting book for Millennials. Nope. Utterly depressing. First of all, the background of this story is just sad. You are led to believe that this girl was some writing prodigy who’s potential and amazing career was cut short by her untimely death. Yes, maybe she had promise, but these stories were no masterpieces. The introduction by her professor was the best part of the whole book. But it also set my expectations way too high for the stories that followed.

I seriously felt like I was just reading her Writer’s Workshop assignments. The topics were so bizarre and unrelated to one another. We’re on a submarine?? A girl is getting her varicose veins removed?? Dying whales?? What?? I had zero connection to any of the stories or characters. I found myself wondering why I should care about any of it. By the end I was just flipping through pages if the stories didn’t capture my interest (Spoiler alert: they didn’t). 

Also, almost all of the stories were about death and/or unfulfilled potential. If you believe in your thoughts creating reality, then you will believe me when I say that this girl must have known she was going to die early. Which makes the whole book even more depressing.

Finally, one of my biggest issues with this book was that she was supposedly the “voice of her generation” and her professor claims that Marina didn’t try to sound older than she really was. No. These stories were not relatable for the average twenty-something. She did not provide any new perspective or insight. Reading this book will not help older generations understand Millennials. 

My thoughts and heart go out to Marina’s family and friends, but this was not a book worth reading. I picked it for the the Published Posthumosly category for the Reader Harder Challenge. If for some reason you are still curious and wasn’t to buy the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“What we have to remember is that we can still do anything. We can change our minds. We can start over.”

1/5 Stars

Thursday, January 18, 2018

How to Get Review Copies of Books

I have been asked many times how I get access to review copies of so many great books. I wanted to share a few of the ways. 

First, you need some sort of blog/website where you will be posting your reviews. You also need to plan to post reviews to Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites. You should start by reviewing books you already have or books from the library. Places won’t just give you free books without seeing proof that you already have reviews and that your reviews are good quality. Some websites/publishers might also require you to have a fanbase and subscribers before they will send to anything you. 

Another thing to note, if you do receive free books, you should be timely in reading and posting your review. They usually are sending out new releases that they want a lot of buzz about (good or bad). I also recommend sending them a link to your review and at that point you can request the next book or two. If you don't review the books they send you, then you might blow your chance at receiving any more. 

The Book Blogger List

You will want to get signed up on here as soon as possible. You will start getting a flood of self-published and less popular authors looking for reviews. This is risky since you won’t know what the book quality will be like, but it is a good place to start. Most have only ebook copies, but some may have a few paperbacks they are willing to part with. Note: It may take a month or two for them to process your request to be added to the list. 

Blogging For Books

This site allows you to request one book at a time. Once you finish a review, then you can request the next one. You are not required to have a certain audience in order to review for them. However, you do see more books if you have higher traffic to your website. And there are limited numbers of print and ebooks available, so you have to be quick to get one you want; check back often. This is only books that are published by Penguin Random House.

First to Read

Penguin Random House also offers access to ebooks. I prefer print books, so I no longer use this site. These are all galleys, so that means they are not available for purchase yet. They only post them once a month and the good ones go fast! So check as soon as they are posted. The more points you have, the better books you can request. You earn points in a variety of ways, such as writing reviews and visiting certain pages. 

Read it Forward

If you sign up for their email list, you will get notified of a giveaway every week. I enter every week and have yet to win anything…but this is all by chance and you don’t need a website to win. This is also owned by Penguin Random House. 


This is probably the easiest way to start requesting and getting free books to review. They only have ebooks, so I moved away from this site once I started getting print books from publishers. But the best part about this site is that there is a huge variety of publishers and genres. You are very likely to get books this way. You are more likely to keep getting more as you publish reviews on their site. Like First to Read, these are uncorrected proofs that are sent out to create buzz before a book is actually released for sale. 

Library Thing

This is more like a sweepstakes. You can request print or ebook copies of books that interest you. Winners are “randomly” selected each month. They post new books the first week of every month. I have received only three this way over three years (and I post a lot of reviews). There are some books from bigger publishers, but most are from smaller, less-known publishers. 


Goodreads has tons of giveaways going on all the time. They have some very popular books, and some books that self-published authors have put up on their own. They say you have better luck if you post reviews, but I am very active on Goodreads and have only won one copy in three years. Some people are strategic and enter the ones that are about to end and have very little entries. But you have to ask yourself what quality of book you are looking for…

Social Media

I follow a lot of my favorite publishers and authors on social media. Some post a lot of giveaways and contests to win free books. Some smaller authors may respond to your messages if you ask for a review copy directly. 

Email Publishers Directly

Once you have established yourself in the reviewing community, you can start to look through upcoming catalogs and email publishers directly. You should be able to find the correct contact people on the publishers’ websites. Keep in mind that some of the bigger publishers will not send out review copies to individual people, especially if they already run their own website, such as the ones listed above (Penguin Random House does not send out review copies, so don't waste time emailing them about it). When you email them, you will want to include 2-3 books you are interested in and info about your website (link, how many visitors you have a day, how many followers/subscribers, where you post reviews). I also will include reviews of books they have published, even if they didn't send me those ones. It shows that I like their books and their authors. You should also include your mailing address since a lot of publishers don’t have time to email back and forth. A lot of the time it is a surprise what books show up at my door!

Do you have any other ways you love to get books to review? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Turtles All The Way Down | John Green

Anybody can look at you. It's quite rare to find someone who sees the same world you see.”

Genre: Young Adult Fiction.
Number of Pages: 288.
Perspective: First.
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana.

Turtles All The Way Down is about a girl who goes on a quest to find a local missing billionaire. In the process, she reconnects with the billionaire’s son, whom she met at camp years ago. It is a story of friendship, family, and how crippling thoughts and fears can be. For a complete summary, you can go here.

What I love about this book is its ability to capture how anxiety and compulsive thoughts feel. I know it is hard for people without those disorders to understand, but I hope that this book gives them even the teeniest idea of what its like. Personally, I have put a lot of time and effort into subduing my spiraling thoughts. I am in a good place now, but there was a time where I could barely eat for six months because my irrational fears and anxieties took over, and I couldn’t explain what was happening to anyone. It’s a scary and lonely place to be, so I understood where Aza was. 

As for the actual story, there wasn’t as much happening as I would expect from a John Green novel. All of his past novels have included a lot of adventure. This book started to have a little romance and mystery, but neither fully played out. Aza and her thoughts were the primary focus. That’s not a horrible thing, since it is realistic of people with anxiety. But it is hard to read a story with not a lot happening. I think if the book was 50-100 pages longer I would have been more content. 

I just was also kind of irked by the dialogue. No sixteen-year-old talks like a ninety-year-old professor. Actually, some of the things they said were too formal and deep for any person to say in a normal conversation. 

I really did love this book. It grabbed me and I couldn’t do anything else until I finished it. I think Aza is an important character and I think a lot of people can find solace in finding a character that relates to their thinking patterns. If you are interested in buying the book, you can buy it here. After you have read it, leave a comment and let me know what you think! 

“True terror isn’t being scared; it’s not having a choice on the matter.”

4/5 Stars

Read my reviews of John Green’s other books:

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Why I Love Reading as an Author

This is a guest post by Tessa Robertson. 

Today, I wanted to discuss the world of writing and reading. No, I won’t be too longwinded about the importance of literature, but it is vital to encourage new readers and new authors. I’ve always been a huge reader. Over time, my preferences have changed, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Growing up, I was provided one genre to read and it was great. The experience with the genre (Christian romance) gave me the ‘feel good’ sense that I intertwine with my own writing. (And no, I don’t write CR.) 

One of the things I discovered when I started writing was that there are so many different genres of books out there! Honestly, I was amazed. And the authors. Goodness, there are way too many to count. The best part about finding a new author or genre is that you learn more about the world and get out of your comfort zone. When it comes to life, we (readers) have the best chance to love a thousand times and pull of high-stake heists from the safety of our comfy chair. 

Why am I so enthralled with reading? Why not is the more important question. Nowadays, TV shows, video games, etc. have taken over. Don’t worry, I binge Netflix and laugh at cheesy romance movies all the time. I just think it’s crucial to inspire others to read. It’s not everyone’s cuppa, but maybe they haven’t found the right author or genre yet. Each author has their own voice and way of writing. Their stories are as unique as them. My point is don’t disregard a debut or new-to-you author just because they aren’t famous. Believe me, we’d all love to be up there with the greats, but for now, we depend on readers who are open to an experience rather than just a popular name. 

Reading and writing are my bread and water. I could never survive without either one. Literature is our past, present, and future. 

Be sure to check out Tessa’s debut novel, Assassin By Day available on Kindle Unlimited or just $0.99.

What would you do if the mystery to your mother’s death lay with your employer? 

After years of unanswered questions, Mishka Vald sets out to uncover the skhodka’s involvement in her past. What she doesn’t expect is to join forces with men who push her to become a double-agent and confirm her future. While hunting down leads, the ruthless assassin realizes a life in the shadows is the only way for her to protect those she loves.  
For Mishka, forbidden love is worth the pain when it comes to Eddie Harper, a military man turned cop. Her affection waivers when duty comes first and she joins forces with an elite Russian soldier, Alexei Petrovich. With a blackmailer threatening her school love, she seeks refuge with a fellow assassin, Nickolas Volkov. And when pushed too far, she’s ushered to a secure location…and straight into the arms of mysterious handyman, Dylan Kain. As the pieces fall into place, their mangled order reveals each man’s true intention. Whose deceit can she accept and whose will obliterate her?
All roads lead back to the woman she thought dead—her mother. Now, as weddings are crashed and alliances tested, Mishka uncovers a deadly game and the players involved. Her heart, once unable to budge, is thrust into action, but which man can keep her soul intact?

Tessa Robertson has been landlocked in the heart of Iowa, USA for the better portion of her life. She grew up on sci-fi and action movies, but isn't nearly a ninja...yet. Since childhood, writing stories and reading have been a constant. Moonlighting in a law firm, she takes on her favorite cases: criminal. Her stories push the limits of standard characters and explore the thriller facets of romance and action. In her spare time, Tessa attempts to teach her Australian Shepherd and Golden Retriever new tricks; spends copious time with family; catches up on her favorite shows; and listens to country music.

Want more Tessa? Follow her on her website. Friendly stalking accepted.

Friday, January 12, 2018

It’s a Writer Thing -- Looking Back

This is a guest post by Jessica Bayliss. 

Happy New Year, Wonderful Writers! I took a break from posting during December so I could focus on writing/editing and also enjoy the holidays. I hope you all had a fantastic holiday season and are ready for a new year of writing, reading, and moving forward toward your goals.

The start of a new year is a time when I always stop and think about where I am and how I got here. I often reflect on my path to my first career as a psychologist and all the things I accomplished. My favorite way to do this is to reflect on all the things that I’ve done/achieved or are happening now that weren’t part of my life 1 year ago.

For writing, for example, one year ago, I didn’t have the book deal for my debut novel, TEN AFTER CLOSING. I sit here writing this post on January 8th, and the offer came the evening of January 9th. It’s hard to put myself back to what it felt like to be in that place, waiting to see if my first experience with submission would go well or end in disappointment. Out of all my writing challenges, the hardest time was the interim between my agent telling me we had very strong interest on my book and the day the offer came. 

When I first started writing, which was late 2010, I started as a hobby. I literally had a conversation with myself about how I needed a new hobby, and I thought it would be fun to see if I could write a novel. I finished my first one about a year later, and I already knew I wanted to pursue a career in writing. (You can read my post about how I queried pretty much as soon as I finished that book, even though it was not even close to ready, right here. LOL!) I didn’t start to really connect with other writers with professional goals until 2012, and I met my writing group in 2013. At that time, because of them (I love you, Novelists!!), I began to learn a ton about the industry, and it's around then that I read my first How I Got My Agent/Book Deal posts. I remember reading posts from authors where it took them five years, or a decade, or 5, 7, 10 books to get from start to agent offer, and I was like, “Wow! That’s a long time. I don’t think I can do that. I’d probably give up.”

Shame on me! Now, I know better. 

I love writing so much, I’m ready to stick it out as long as necessary to reach whatever success is waiting for me. But back then, it just felt so daunting. 

And here I am, ready to do the math. So, how long did it take me? 

- Fall 2010: Started writing in November, I think

- Summer 2011: Told a dear friend I was writing, and she wrote me a note with my favorite inspirational phrase (which will sound familiar if you follow my posts): You can do it! You can write!

- December, 2011: 
  1. First book done (but not fully revised; I finished revisions in summer 2015. Starting with book three, my revisions started taking way less time, but my first two books were a hot mess and I still had SO much to learn.)  
  2. First (highly misguided) queries sent.

- January, 2012: Asked a writer, who was a friend of a friend, for some info/resources, and found my first critique group through SCBWI.

- July, 2013: Connected with my writing group! (YAAAAYYYY!!!!!!!!!)

- November, 2013: Second book done (but not fully revised; I finished revisions in Feb. 2016).

(Here’s where things heat up because I started plotting)

- August, 2014: wrote first short story. I won’t break down all my stories on this time line, but between then and mid-2016, I wrote nine.

- November, 2014: First attempt at NaNo. Third book done.

- December, 2014: 
  1. First short story accepted AND 
  2. This is when I began my website and social media presence.

- January, 2015: Actually started getting requests on my queries.

- March, 2015: My first short story was published. (Hooray!)



- June, 2015: Fourth book

- July, 2015: Offer from a small press on book number four.

- August, 2015: 
  1. Fifth book (TEN AFTER CLOSING). 
  2. Heard an audio book recording of my story for BEWARE THE LITTLE WHITE RABBIT (Happy tears. A lot.)

- September, 2015: Revise and Resubmit! (AHH!) But no offer.

- November, 2015: Sixth book done (BROKEN CHORDS) and FRIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS is out!

- January, 2016: Seventh book

- February, 2016:  
  1. Found out Three World Press was closing, so bye-bye BREATHLESS and book number 4. (Sad tears. A lot.) 
  2. Offer on BROKEN CHORDS (Holy moly!!!). 
  3. Accepted into Pitch2Publication (So much excitement, I thought I might die.).

May, 2016: I GOT AN OFFER FROM A DREAM AGENT!!!! And we went on submission (GAH!).

- August, 2016: Eighth book

- November, 2016: Ninth book

- January, 2017: We got an offer on TEN AFTER CLOSING (Hooray!!!!!!!)

- February, 2017: Tenth book

- May, 2017: Self-published BREATHLESS.

- July, 2017: Eleventh book

- October, 2017: BROKEN CHORDS is out. (AHH!!!!!!)

- November, 2017: Twelfth book

- June, 2018: TEN AFTER CLOSING will be out.

I’ve never written this out before, and I’m sort of sitting here, letting it sink in. Mind=blown.

So, as you can see, between my first words on that first blank page and:
  • First ‘yes’ on anything: just over 4 years
  • First book contract: 5.5 years, 
  • Agent offer: 5.5 years, 7 books, and 9 short stories
  • Contract on TEN AFTER CLOSING: 6.5 years, 9 books, and 9 short stories
  • The release of my book BROKEN CHORDS: 7 years, 11 books, & 9 short stories
  • The release of my book TEN AFTER CLOSING: almost 8 years, 12+ books (I’m not sure what my drafting schedule will be this year)

If someone had told me, the day I started my first book, that it would take more than 5 years to get an agent and almost 8 for my first official novel to come out, I doubt I would have been like, “Yeah. Sign me up for THAT, please.” I would maybe have curled up into a ball and cried. I might never have started. 

BUT, when I think about the ride getting here, it DOESN’T FEEL THAT LONG! 

This has been the most exciting seven years of my life. There were so many milestones along the way. Meeting new people, learning new things, small successes. Yes, there was a lot of stress, waiting, and the challenge of so many rejections. If I put all my rejections into this timeline, we’d have AT LEAST 120 additional bullets. AT LEAST. But still, it’s been an amazing seven years. It’s been more fulfilling, rewarding, and FUN than I would have ever imagined. 

I love writing, and I can’t even picture what my life would be like today if I hadn’t had that conversation with myself about needing a new hobby (or if I picked something other than fiction like, say, knitting. Hmm… Yeah. That would have been different, but I’d probably have a lot of cool sweaters and blankets by now.)

So, no matter where you are on your writing journey, I wish you success, but more than anything, I hope you are having FUN! And remember, the only way to fail, is to stop before you reach your goals. 

You can do it! You can write!

Jessica Bayliss is an author of commercial fiction who loves nothing better than getting lost in a good story, whether in print or on film. When not busy with her latest fiction project, she can be found loving her friends and family—especially her husband, Eric—playing with one pesky Havanese, or trying to appease an ornery cockatiel, typically with a cup of coffee near at hand.