A to Z Book Blogger Survey!

Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner created this awesome bookish survey, and I saw it over on Katie’s Book Blog.
I decided I wanted to join in!

Author You’ve Read The Most Books From

Nora Roberts, hands down. School libraries close for the summer, and in a small town with no library, Mom’s books would make do!

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Bloody Jack – Book 1

Best Sequel Ever

This is difficult. What are the defining qualities of best?

The one I enjoyed most just simply for a wonderful read is LA Meyers’ Bloody Jack series, about young orphan Mary Faber.

The series I love beyond thought and comparison is Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, even though I’m still in Book 5. I was in love from the first book. Absolutely, head-over-heels in love with Gabaldon and this story since 7th grade. I am so glad to say that kind of connection will never die or dwindle!

Currently Reading

Sacred Promises by Jennifer Hines and Mindy Bigham. I think I’ll enjoy the fact that Abbey has to grow up like any other person, but keep her royal identity a secret.

Drink of Choice While Reading

The old me would say Dr. Pepper, but the trying-to-be-more-mindful me says water.

E-reader or physical book?

Physical book for keepers. E-books for books I just review from requests. (I’ve gotten better at saying no!) I will always (eventually) get a physical copy of books that I adore.

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated in High School

Hmmm. Not like he would have gone to high school and we ever would have met to start dating, but how can I not say Jamie Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series?! Talk about the epitome of a man – a man’s man! And yet he’s still tender and reflective. And tall. With an accent. Mmm. I think I need to do a re-read.

Glad You Gave This Book a Chance

The Hunger Games. I’m not one to go with the crowd, so I’m glad I gave it a chance despite all the buzz and hype because I loved so many things about the dystopian society that Katniss lives within and handles.

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pee-your-pants funny

Oh, and Harry Potter. Remember how I said I had a stigma to it growing up? I don’t know why, I really don’t. But I am SO SO SO glad I followed through. True, it happened the year after I graduated college instead of the summer after I graduated high school, but it was still a joy. Such a joy that I’m taking the Hogwarts House theme into my language arts classroom this year!

Hidden Gem Book

The Snitch, Houdini and Me by Johnny Virgil. HILARIOUS and sentimental!

Important Moment in Your Reading Life

Reading the Laura Ingalls Wilder books in primary and elementary school. I even re-read the series in 5th and 6th grade. I always felt so different because I really was a farm girl and didn’t fit in. I thought I was born in the wrong era. And, I loved the fact that I could watch the TV show with my grandmother. Michael Landon was my childhood hero, and he still is a champion in my eyes for a lot of reasons.

Just Finished

Dreamscape by Christie Rich. Strong female character!

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read

Heavy science fiction/zombie/vampire/war.  I eventually want to get into reading more biographical and historical reads about wars, but I don’t think I can handle that emotional of a read at this point in my life. I have read some, like Night, The Diary of Anne Frank, Regeneration and some other British literature from my college courses (that I actually did enjoy!).

Longest Book You’ve Read

Maybe Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix at 870. Outlander and Voyager were also 870 pages, but the font was smaller… Oh, Drums of Autumn (part of the Outlander series) at 928 pages, also with tiny font. Although right now I’m struggling to get through book 5, The Fiery Cross, at 1443 pages…

Major Book Hangover Because of…

Outlander. In 7th grade, I about died not being able to continue on with Claire and Jamie. When I found out it was a series, I rushed out to get the rest!

Number of Bookcases You Own

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the piles on top were MUCH higher before this last move

Personal: just one. I am a broke, recent graduate. And that bookcase became a non-negotiable. I HAD to have my books out of storage, and see them. In my classroom I have two bookcases for my own teacher literature and my classroom library. I would never turn away a bookcase! 😉

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times

The first book of Bloody Jack and Outlander. If I had Little House on the Prairie, I’d probably read that more times too!

Preferred Place to Read

In the peace, quiet and hopefully solidarity and comfort of my bed, with pillows and blankies and a fan and possibly music.

Quote That Inspires You

This is very hard. We’ll be here all day. No joke. I’m the kind of person that records meaningful quotes, or quotes that “speak to me.” Both of these are from the Outlander series.

“This is our time. Until that time stops – for one of us, for both – it is our time. Now. Will you waste it, because you are afraid?”

“So take me as you find me, with all my fears and failures.”

Reading Regret

Not reading Harry Potter while growing up. (The first one came out when I was in elementary school.) I feel I lost some of the magic.

Series You Started and Need to Finish (series is complete)

I need to finish Bloody Jack. I just checked, and three more books have come out. I don’t know when it will end, but I hope never! I love the characters and their stories. I think that will be a first paycheck buy!

I also need to finish reading the Outlander series. Oh, and the last book in the Hunger Games series.

Three of Your All Time Favorite Books

Obviously Outlander.

Looking for Alaska by John Green (thank you adolescent literature!) – little did I know this book would help me with my own personal life and turmoil when a family member committed suicide.

He Forgot to Say Goodbye by Benjamin Saenz, as my own dad was absent from my young life by choice.

Unapologetic Fangirl For

Outlander. Duh!

Very Excited for This Release More Than All the Others

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Outlander

I’ve never been one to desperately wait for a release. I just want more of Outlander and Bloody Jack. Please keep writing their stories!

Worst Bookish Habit

I tend to twist and twirl my hair while reading, usually during intense parts. I’ve caught myself doing it, which is an annoying pet peeve of mine when a woman is talking and playing with her hair. I have no bad bookish habits.

X Marks the Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book…

😦 They’re all in boxes. Again. Not fair. …. I abhor moving!

The 27th book on my Kindle is L. Frank Baum’s The Lost Princess of Oz.

Your Latest Book Purchase

Uhhhm…. blogger Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half book. Yes, I pre-ordered it. I have no shame.

ZZZ-Snatcher Book (last one that kept you up way too late)

This isn’t a very fair question for me since I have insomnia, and often stay up late working on this book blog or reading whatever I’m currently in. But growing up, it would be whatever romance novel I snitched and was hiding from my mom.

BuzzFeed: 65 Books You Need To Read In Your 20s

BuzzFeed, a popular entertainment site, has released a list of 65 books that people should read while in their 20s. Clicking the link will take you to the list on Goodreads…although that list has now grown to 75 books. ()

This interested me, just like the BBC’s list of 100 Books – which was totally issued as an excellent challenge! The BBC said that most people only read 6 out of the 100 books listed. And there’s a second installment I JUST discovered: the BBC’s list of 101-200.

Although I’m interested in BuzzFeed’s list, just as I was with the BBC’s list, this BuzzFeed list also raised some questions. I’d like to hear your answers.

First off, where did these other 10 books come from? Who added the other 10? Why? Which books are the original 65? I think it’s important to denote which books have been added.

What do you think? Does your age really matter when it comes to reading a book? Will it change the way you receive the storyline, characters and ultimately, the author? Do you think gender plays a large part in these lists? For example, would a man have written this list as opposed to a woman? Would a man’s list look different than a woman’s? Oh, an entire study could be done about that!

What do you think of the books that made this list? Are there some books you think shouldn’t be on this list? What other books do you think should have been included?

Who gets to make this list? That’s what I always wonder: who gets to pick these books and make these lists? What are their credentials? Have they read ALL of these books? Are they “experts” in these books?

Even with the BBC’s list, which I became aware of in high school – my junior year, actually – I wondered these questions.

Thank you, Deb Ostis, for introducing me to that BBC 100 books list. I’ve currently knocked out 13 of the 100 original books on the list (six on the second list), am still in chapter 32 of Gone With the Wind, and own several other books on the list that I plan to read soon.

Perhaps the BBC’s lists are something else I will post…Yes, I will. But some more reviews before that happens. Check back and let’s compare our completed lists!

Book Blogging Resources

As most of you know, I’ve only undertaken this book blogging journey this year.  I’ve been going for about seven months.

I have a very helpful book-reading friend – Momabel of The Eclectic Bookworm (where I also co-author) got to help me start out. And I realized…this isn’t that hard. I can see how people get advanced copies of hot new books, whether best-sellers or from independent presses, and churn out book reviews.

If you’re a reader and not sure where to start – use this as a jumping off point. It has helped me immensely. You can definitely get relevant, upcoming books to review – for FREE (almost always in an ebook format) in return for a review.

Have you heard of….

  • Goodreads?
  • Smashwords?
  • Book Bloggers?
  • NetGalley?
  • Book Reviewer Yellow Pages?
  • Indie Review
  • EReader News Today?
  • Amazon – Kindle Best Sellers List?

goodreads_f4Goodreads is a go-to spot for all things reading. It has everything: book synopsis, quotes, book clubs, book recommendations, and book discussions. You can rate and review books, answer trivia questions, enter book giveaways, explore lists (by all types of categories) that other users create and take part in a creative writing community. You can also create your own personal reading goals, and “shelves” where you can keep track of books you’ve read, books you own, books you want to read and books you’re currently reading. (If you enter a book giveaway, the book it automatically added to your “to read” shelf.) And  lastly, you can see what kinds of books your friends are selecting to read, which can add flavor to your reading palette.

smashwords+verticalSmashWords is another way to get free books. There are additional titles that cost, so if you’re not generating revenue from your blog or reviews – start with the free route. Smashwords is also a place where you can independently publish an ebook. It’s a great place to start building relationships with publishers.

imagesBookBloggers is a site where authors can submit their books to be up for review. You can email the author via BookBloggers to request a copy to review, and they may send you an ebook version. I’ve had some success with this site – but lately it has been down A LOT. Like, all the time. I’ve received two copies from this source in 4 months.

NetGalley is a host site to publishing houses. I strongly recommend using this as a main (even netgalley_logoprimary) avenue to getting books. You create a profile, select books you’d like to receive, and the publishing house may grant you access to a book based on what they need in a reviewer. Setting up your profile for the genres and types of books you want is important. For example, I’m a teacher and have listed that my book blog has educational resources for YA novels I review as well as reviews for personal reads…and I don’t get many “request granted” email notifications for romance novels. You can rate and review books, which I think helps you receive access for future requests.  Often your additional requests for books from the same publisher will be granted if you’ve already been granted access to one of their books. I have had moderate success with this site: out of 100+ books I requested (all that were available and interested me at one point), I was given access to 49 titles. This is why I recommend this resource.

Book Reviewer Yellow Pages is basically a Yellow Pages listing of book bloggers of all types. The main focus is bloggers who review self-published books, but they do list a few reviewers who aren’t self-pubbed only bloggers. This is a wonderful resource if you are just starting out, need more variety in your reading, or want to create relationships with a few authors. This is also a great resource for authors: there are numerous articles about writing, how to get your books on store bookshelves, how to get reviews, and just how to market your book. Reviewers and Bloggers, you can join at ANY time! There are monthly newsletters available, and your blog is listed as a newcomer in the newsletter after you’ve gotten onboard. You also get displayed on the homepage for a while! Wonderful, wonderful resource.

The Indie Review is for readers, reviewers and authors – much like Book Reviewer Yellow Pages. This is for Indie book reviewers ONLY. If you are affiliated with a publisher, you are not an Indie reviewer. There is a list of Indie authors, so never fear! According to their site, they “[rank] within the Top Ten of Book Review sites on Google, globally.” If you don’t like traditional publishers, this may be a route for you to explore, and hopefully connect with some authors.

EReader News Today is designed for Kindle readers. It even has help for using your Kindle. Each day EReader posts bargain deals and free books! Although they only do two free books a day, there is still a selection of choices. The best thing is that you can still go back and get the free books from past days! Follow them on Facebook to see when they post their book deals.

scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lgAmazon Best Sellers has cheap AND free book lists. Here’s how you get there: on the left panel of Amazon.com, select Books -> Kindle Books -> Best Sellers (across the top). On the left will be Top 100 Paid, and on the right will be the Top 100 FREE.

**The EBW and I (through EBW) are listed in both the Book Reviewer Yellow Pages and The Indie Review, and we get multiple requests daily. I also utilize Smashwords, Book Bloggers (not so much anymore, due to website availability) and NetGalley.

Reviewers: what resources do you utilize? I’d love to share your input! Leave a comment below, or email me at girlof1000wonders@gmail.com.

Do you care about reading?

Well, do ya?

Then go vote for my school!

Right now, it’s questionable whether any language arts classes in my 5th-8th grade school will have any classroom computers to utilize. I’ve already heard it’s hard to get into the computer lab once people start booking it because they’re computer hogs. I want to be able to do one classroom reading blog with all of my students from all of my classes (2 Pre-AP ELA, 5 regular ELA and “Impact”) to be able to participate in a reading community using technology. Not only will it help with their writing and editing skills, it will also help teach them online etiquette AND motivate them to read. If they don’t read their books, they can’t participate in the blog.

Target is giving $5 million away to schools – you just have to go vote for it! Once a school gets 25 votes, they get $25. Every vote after that equals a dollar donated. You can vote weekly until September 21 or until all of the $5 million has been awarded.

All of my readers, please go vote for my school – and if you’re feeling particularly benevolent, go share the link with your friends. I appreciate all of the support!

Full Shelves

Since I’m an avid reader and a teacher, I’ve got tons of books.

After my big move in December, with boxes of books sitting around, I decided enough was enough! I bought a bookcase and made that ever-handy boyfriend build it.

It didn’t take long to fill it… and that’s not even all of ’em.

Did I mention I love books?

How full are your shelves? Which books and authors fill your shelves and TBR lists? 

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some of my library…

Author Interview: Alicia Long & Jayne Jones

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their funny book

I’ve been on a kick lately about really wanting to authentically communicate with the authors who request book reviews. In the teaching world, we (mostly literacy people) talk about using “authentic texts” that are meaningful and build on (hopefully many) concepts or skills we’re trying to teach. I’ve realized lately that I have just been reviewing books that most independently-published (and by this I mean the non-traditional, big publisher method) authors send on. And that’s it. End of conversation. Sometimes not even a thanks. :-/

So, as the few that have recently trickled in with their requests, I make a point to ask or suggest additional materials and conversations (especially if it’s a first-timer). I’ve found that they want to share just as much as I want  to hear – and I want to start building some lasting relationships with authors, and to hopefully be part of their future projects. 🙂

All that aside, I recently was kind of blown off by a big-time author and agent. That got me really down considering the vast amount of work I put into reading the book (which, yes, I put at the top of my list and totally screwed up and backed up my reading schedule), writing a meaningful review (in hopes of sparking conversations) and other related blog tour type posts.

I felt like a small fry in a big ol’ vat of fat, crinkly fries. You know, the kind of small fry that gets all burnt to a crisp and no one wants? Yeah, that’s how I felt after that whole episode. That’s just not nice. That whole experience prompted me to make a few changes in my policies, and it was like this whole concept of TALKing to the authors lit up in flashing, bright neon lights. I couldn’t give up on blog tours that easily. I just had to do it my way…

This is one of the handful of authors that has requested a review – or in this case, co-authors! To me, two authors who jointly write and publish a singular book (or series) together is new to me. I really haven’t seen it before, but I think it’s an absolutely WONDERFUL idea. I’ve also noticed from a few other requests that have come in, that this seems to be growing into a trend. I hope it doesn’t die out.

These two lovely ladies, Alicia Long and Jayne Jones, ran into each other by way of Capitol Hill and congressional office staff and worked for almost ten years in the political arena. They first got started working together under Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. They realized there was just too much not to share, so why not write a book together? Hello, Capitol Hell!

They are both extremely dedicated woman to a variety of institutions and groups, and I think that makes them even more “real” to readers. I enjoyed reading their bios on the Capitol Hell website. You may find out one of these two ladies dreams of marrying Green Bay Packer Quarterback Aaron Rodgers…and yes, it is on her bucket list!

Both Amanda (over at The Eclectic Bookworm) and I have reviewed Capitol Hell. It was really hard for me not to go read her review, which you can read here. This is my take on Capitol Hell.

Oh, and one last thing before we get to our interview: you can get a SIGNED, PERSONALIZED copy of the book right now. How’s that for nice?

Both of you worked together under MN Senator Norm Coleman. Were you friends before that opportunity, or did you become friends because of it?

Alicia:  Our love of politics actually brought us together!  We met on former Senator Coleman’s campaign when we were both working in the Volunteer Center.  We even shared a desk, so we became fast friends!

Jayne: We met on the Coleman campaign and shared a desk. Trust me, if you can share a desk with me then you can be my best friend!

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Former Senator Norm Coleman (MN)

Alicia: I don’t think either of us had ever considered actually writing a book before.  But after we finished working on the Hill and began to tell people about all of the crazy things we saw, the common response was, “You should write a book!”  So, one day we just did.  Not only was it cathartic, but it was also so much fun rehashing memories with one another.

Jayne: After we both left the Hill, we were sitting on my couch laughing about all our stories and other staff stories. Alicia decided to write chapter one and she sent it to me.  I loved it. Added a little sparkle and off we were rolling.

Why did you think it was important to share the experiences and situations that crop up in your book?

Jayne: Ha. I’m not quite sure we think it is important, but more or less we wanted folks to laugh and bring the inside the beltway humor to outside the belt. We were sick and tired of DC tell-all-books.

Alicia:  We definitely didn’t want to write a “tell all.” We wanted to write a fun, light-hearted book, that gives readers a glimpse into the life of a Hill staffer, and I think we were able to accomplish that. 🙂  There are just so many crazy things that happen there, it’s too good not to share!

How did you decide what situations (and ensuing commentary) to include or exclude?

Jayne: Believe it or not, we had no notes or outline. We just wrote and what stuck—stuck. 🙂

Alicia: Everything just sort of came organically and we went with it.  Jayne and I like to joke that we share a brain, so there was really never any arguing about what to keep in and what to cut.  We stuck with what was funny!

What did the writing process look like as the two of you wrote this book together?

Alicia: We love this question!  I actually started the book and wrote chapter one.  I sent it off to her, she added her pizzazz and sent it back to me.  She then took a stab at chapter two, and I added my take on things.  We literally piggybacked the book like that, and what was so fun was neither of us knew what the other one was join going to write!  It was always a surprise.  We had talked about an overarching theme, but that was it!  It was almost like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book.

Jayne: It was gruesome. Just kidding. It was a total blast and we piggy-backed the entire journey. Folks like to call us ham and eggs. You can’t have the one without the other. We had zero hiccups, fights or angst over stories, wording or storyline. I’m not sure I could do this partnership with anyone else, besides Alicia!

Was it difficult writing this book? What were the most challenging things about writing this book together?

Jayne: I think the most challenging is what many authors don’t do. Post production you must work your fanny off and self promote your book as much as possible. From marketing to book signings to media, your book (or our baby, as we call it), really is a priority and focus for both of us.

Alicia:  Ditto what Jayne said.  The editing process was also tough… revision, after revision, after revision.  Writing is the fun part!!

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*cover varies by edition

Were there any authors that influenced how you wrote the book?

Jayne: To be honest, not really. I love to read but I’m not sure I’ve read a book like Capitol Hell! : )

Alicia: I definitely looked at the works of other chick-lit authors I enjoy like Sophie Kinsella and Lauren Weisberger.  I also read Stephen King’s “On Writing” because, lets face it, he is the master!

The book kick starts with Allison’s first days, and the insane amount of flack she puts up with from both her superiors and her co-workers. I applaud you both, because I wouldn’t put up with it! How did both of you continue to work in such an environment? What made it bearable?

Jayne: This is a great question.  Here’s the deal, we both are truly thankful and appreciative for our experience on the Hill. There is no better job training for other jobs or life, quite frankly. We were young and very naïve! Plus, you have everyone telling you what a glamorous cool job you have—you don’t quit.

Alicia:  Some days were tough.  Some days were great.  I think we both were raised with Midwestern values and were taught that you work hard and never give up.  That being said, I don’t think we would put up with the same things now as we did in our twenties.  But everything is a learning experience.  You learn and you grow.

Some reviewers have indicated that the book shies away from a lot of political issues on the table these days. I’m sure you were both privy to more of these issues than is shared in the book. Why did you decide not to include such issues?

Jayne: And, some reviewers think we hit too hard on some political issues like immigration, etc. This isn’t a political thought book—trust me, if we wanted to write one we could—we both are very opinionated and engaged. We wanted readers to laugh—bringing that hilarity to the election box—that’s our campaign motto. And, gosh darn it, we are sticking to it!!

Alicia: We wanted to ensure that the book would be enjoyable for folks on both sides of the aisle and we purposefully tried not to alienate anyone.  We obviously had to affiliate the characters with a political party, otherwise it wouldn’t be true to real life, but the point of the book was not to promote a political agenda.  It doesn’t matter which party you support, if you work on the Hill, you are bound to experience the madness there!

What do you want readers to take away from reading Capitol Hell?

Jayne: A read that will make you laugh, wonder how much is true and really teach others about how to treat fellow colleagues and people.

Alicia: The urge to read Capitol Hell 2! 😉

Will there be a follow-up book to Capitol Hell? Or is this the last we can expect from either of you?

Jayne: Oh come on, you know this isn’t the last!! Of course, CH 2 is in the works as we type!! We hope to have it ready by the end of the year! Go McDermott!

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Alicia Long & Jayne Jones

Jayne & Alicia: CH2 Sneak Peak!?!?  Sure why not!?!  Here yo go!! -J

“Rise and shine, Valentine,” I stated as I aggressively shoved Janet to roll over.

She mumbled and finally came to life.  And when she did, I could tell that she was just as shocked as I had been to find us nestled half-naked together in bed. “What the hell happened?” she asked.

“Ha,” I scoffed, “I was hoping you could explain this to me.”

“Oh, oh, I have a headache the size of Texas,” she whined.

“Well, no shit…so do I.  Stop complaining and get some damn clothes on,” I ordered as I got out of bed.  I had an uneasy feeling about what had transpired the night before.

“Easy, Karma Wannabee,” she bitched back. “You’re no fun when you’re hungover.”  I ignored her comment and we both slowly got dressed without saying another word.  Janet finally broke the silence.

“You were a hot mess last night,” she said. “You could barely stand up.”

“What, happened?” I asked.  “All I remember is dancing with Cam and then nothing.  I think I blacked out.”

“Whiskey must make you mean.  Do you remember bitch-slapping Blair across the face last night?”

“What!?!” I shrieked.  “I couldn’t have!”

“Oh, you sure did. And everyone saw.  Charles even over-reacted and asked if he should call an ambulance.” she continued, “You were dancing with Cam, showing off moves I didn’t even know existed, and those long legs of yours were grinding and swaying all over the place. Cam’s face was pitch red. Apparently, Blair tried to come join in the fun and you had no time for him,” she continued. “Cam told me that Blair came up and asked if you learned those moves in stripper school and then said you could dance on his pole anytime. Without saying a word, you whipped around and slapped him right across the face. It was glorious,” she said grinning from ear to ear.

I stared at Janet unable to speak.  I couldn’t believe that I had physically assaulted Blair in front of all my co-workers.  Granted, he definitely had it coming considering the comments he made, but there was no way this was going to end well…

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Jayne: We’d love to hear from you or better yet send you a signed copy—check us out at www.capitolhellbook.com. We LOVE talking and Skyping with book clubs!! Thanks for your tremendous support!

Alicia: A BIG HUGE THANK YOU!! WE LOVE YOU GUYS!!

Keep up with these gals on Facebook or Twitter. If you want to know more about the authors, or get connected, their emails are provided on their bio pages.

 

Book Bloggy Friends: Policy on Blog Tours?

Call to all book bloggy friends! 

I am relatively new to book blogging since starting in January.

In June I was asked to do a book blog tour for J. Daniel Parra’s Pieces of Tracy. I had no idea what I even got myself into – I had to ask friends and Daniel’s agent. I’d already done an interview with Linda Harley (author of Destiny’s Flower) after several exchanged emails, but didn’t know that could be considered a blog tour. I know, total noob.

I recently had a bad experience with an agent. It made me initially want to chuck the whole idea of blog tours and not do them again. I ended up pulling the remainder of the materials, and then felt guilty so I posted them…but without the fanfare.

Bloggy friends, what is your take on book blog tours or other promotional posts?

Do you have guidelines/expectations you send out to those who express interest of these types of things, or do you avoid them altogether? Do you only do work with independent, self-published or small press authors (marketing their own books), big time traditional publishers, both?

What do you have to say about all of this? I definitely need your feedback.

Tell me what you think by leaving a comment, or you can email me at girlof1000wonders@gmail.com.

Book Review: Capitol Hell

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Capitol Hell by Jayne  Jones and Alicia Long

Genre: political, chick lit, humor, contemporary fiction

Jayne Jones and and Alicia Long are former Senate staffers-turned authors.  After working nearly ten years in politics, the pair decided [they] had way too many hilarious stories to keep to [themselves], so [they] penned Capitol Hell, a fictionalized tale of what life is really like behind the scenes in Washington D.C. Capitol Hell tells the story of Allison Amundson, a small town girl from South Dakota who lands the highly sought after job of scheduler to the newly-elected and rising star of the US Senate, Senator Anders McDermott III (MN).  While she thinks she is on the fast track to success, she quickly learns that life on Capitol Hill is even more dysfunctional than portrayed on TV. In fact, it is ‘Capitol Hell.’ Capitol Hell is repeatedly being called “‘The Devil Wears Prada”‘meets Washington D.C.” and chick-lit lovers are eating it up.

No one ever said life on the hill was easy…

The story is told through Allison Amundson, a college graduate that snagged a “job of a lifetime.” Twice. However, on her very first day as a scheduler for her Minnesota senator she realizes it’s not the pretty picture she imagined it to be. Indeed, he is demanding and critical, insincere and phony, and believes Allison to be on duty 24/7. She is trying desperately to keep things on an even keel in an office where she is saddled with the workload of several, and the target of a staff clique.  She has no real ally or support until a friend from the senator’s campaign, Janet, comes to the Hill.

And then Mr. Snot Nosed Brat, Grade A member of the Allison Haters Club and whose father was a maxed out donor to the senator, throws Allison and Janet for a loop – and puts the whole office in turmoil…and lands the girls on air mattresses in the senator’s house back in Minnesota to work from the state office. Not only that, but the first-year senator is about to make a remarkable national announcement.

This book was definitely an interesting read. It gives insight into the workings of the US Congressional offices, with the senators and staffers that fill them. I think this is a lighthearted but very telling commentary about what happens behind closed doors in our government offices. The staff members put up with a lot of flack from superiors and co-workers. Indeed, the Allison Haters Club could disappear from work for hours on end to go to the movies while one the clock, make incredibly snarky and inappropriate comments and get away with it all without reprimand.

The inner-workings of this office and the staff who “run” it made me cringe. I worked in a university office where things were rapidly falling apart, and I booked it out of Dodge before it landed on my – a student’s – shoulders. My counterpart who stayed…well, she got screwed over royally. I saw the writing on the walls, as Allison can clearly see from her coworkers, and yet she keeps her mouth shut and signs on for another round in the same office but with much more at stake. None of the characters in this book display growth or improvement, except maybe some more insightful glimpses of the chief-of-staff, Charles, who is a married man that adores his children, and later in the book comes to Allison’s defense.

The senator and his wife are an incredulous couple: he’s a lying, cheating, penny-pinching senator, she’s a brainless ex-model-wanna-be-actress who spouts the most insane things for a wife of a government big-wig. The commentary made between the two of them, both on and off the record, include immigration policy, feminists, and working moms. Needless to say, the wifey alienates the entire female population of the United States by some of her comments – and the senator is OK with it. To me, that just doesn’t make sense and is slightly unbelievable that there’s no one doing PR damage.

Some have mentioned in reviews that this book strays away from most issues facing our country and government, and for the most part they are correct. That’s a disappointment and I think not a true reflection of the encompassing novel this could have been, but I also see it from the other side. As a reader, I don’t want politics shoved down my throat. The only real thing that crops up in this book is about immigration. The senator could care less about any MN constituent stuck in a prison somewhere overseas – but he wants a public image of having diverse staff and volunteers, and being the working man for people who’s loved ones are held up by other governments. Sweetheart Janet comes to the rescue, and it is clear that her character is emotionally invested in helping the people her boss ignores. That was a touching moment for me, because I would be just like her.

Overall this book is intended for a light read and I enjoyed it for the most part, but I just couldn’t get past how Allison (or Janet) would have stayed. I grew up with the same values they were raised with: work hard, believe in God, and you’ll be rewarded. When it comes to reaction to criticism, I’m much like Allison: I get angry. So how she could have stayed escapes me. But I suppose it was worth the rewards, which readers don’t find out about.

This book ends in such a way that there could be a second book…

About the Authors

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Alicia and Jayne

Jayne Jones and Alicia Long, co-authors of Capitol Hell began their political careers by working for former Senator Norm Coleman (MN).

Jayne Jones, a graduate of William Mitchell College of Law, left Capitol Hill to work for the Minnesota House of Representatives, where she was the Executive Assistant to the Speaker of the House. Her favorite adventure is teaching others about the legislative process and how to draft legislation in her capacity as a political science professor at Concordia University. Jones is also in the process of starting a summer camp for teenagers interested in public policy.

Alicia Long, a South Dakota native and graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law, also worked for United States Senator John Thune (SD) as well as former United States Senator George Allen (VA). After graduating from law school, she obtained employment as a Presidential Management Fellow in the Department of Justice. In that capacity, she worked as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Columbia. Currently she is an attorney working in Washington D.C.

Author Interview: John Owens

Confessions of a Bad Teacher: The Shocking Truth from the Front Lines of American Public Education by John Owens (Sourcebooks, 2013)

I’m not lazy. I’m not crazy. I’m great with kids and I love literature. 

970166_462246583856450_431601839_nJohn Owens is an editor, journalist, and photographer. Formerly, he was the Senior Vice President and Editorial Director at Hachette Filipacchi Media, where he oversaw brands including Road & TrackPopular Photography, and Travel Holiday. He has made more than 100 national media appearances, including Good Morning AmericaCBS This Morning, CNN, FOX News, and NPR’s All Things Considered.

For additional information about this book, see this earlier post.

To read my review of John’s insightful book, go here.

Read the article that started it all. 

John left his publishing job at Hachette to become a classroom teacher – in the Bronx. He had heart, and he wanted to help. He learned much about his students, especially the educational needs they were lacking.

But he was going to find that his help wasn’t really required at Latinate Institute (pseudonym), a small public school focused on setting an example for reform. The administration needed teachers simply to push and enforce their “Big Ideas,” as Owens calls it. And when things don’t go according to the Big Plan…the teachers are to blame, and the students are just statistical performance numbers.

Owens gives various documentation to support his claims, including this excerpt from a 2002 report about school reform:

The primary responsibility of schools undertaking comprehensive school reform is creating programs that result in improved student achievement…..grounded in scientifically based research. 

At the end of the day, Owens is espousing what most who have been truly involved in their children’s educational life know: “scientifically based research” is driving all kinds of data about state education systems, school districts, campuses, subgroups and individual students – and that data that schools get back every summer is used to reward and punish teachers. Ironically, this new scientifically based method of education isn’t working – it’s been implemented for years, and yet we as a country are still far behind other countries in terms of education.  Owens points out that studies of charter schools, given more leeway in determining curriculum and length of school days – as well as not being subjected to some of the same regulations as public schools – fare no better in terms of performance than public schools.

It all comes down to really one thing: politicians and moneybags think they know what’s what’s best, yet they really know nothing about education. At all. Teachers, and sometimes even administrators, take the fall. I agree with Owens when he says that our educational system needs “a massive system overhaul”….but that would be too much work, and not a quick fix. All of the reform publicizes to be student-oriented, “students first,” but looking at the entire picture says otherwise: administration first.

You can find John on Facebook. 

Why did you decide to leave your Manhattan publishing job to teach in a public school in the South Bronx? What prompted your need to make a difference?

I love writing, reporting, photographing, communicating—and that has opened a number of doors for me—taken me around the world. However, publishing recently changed dramatically, and a corporate merger took the fun and creativity out of my job. I thought it would be rewarding to help young people build their communication skills. And I heard so much about the desperate need for teachers, and that schools were interested in career changers who weren’t master teachers, but had enthusiasm for their subject matter, real world experience to share, and were eager to work hard to help out.

Why did you write “the article that started it all,” as it’s been dubbed, for Salon.com? What did you think you would accomplish with the article?

I left teaching shell-shocked that NYC and our nation allow such horrible schools to exist. I reeled from how we are willfully neglecting and shortchanging students. When I shared my experiences with friends and colleagues, few believed me. Three pages of rules for how to create a bulletin board?! Tyrannical principals who had no regard for students or teachers?! Since I couldn’t help kids in the classroom, I felt an obligation to bring to light what goes on behind closed school doors.

How did writing the article transform into your book that’s now coming out on August 6th?

Just as I was shocked at the horrible teaching and learning experiences in our schools, I was also amazed by the viral response I got to the article. Teachers from throughout the country told me that they experienced these same conditions and insanity. And so I felt an obligation to try to help the American public understand the truth about teaching. The problem is NOT bad teachers. The problem is billionaires who are trying to treat students like widgets, and impose ridiculous management techniques in schools—so they can make a profit. Too many people who pretend they are education experts put students LAST. I saw firsthand how unfairly teachers are treated, and felt I had to make the public aware that the bad teacher witch hunt is bogus and must stop.

If things had been different – if the school administration was supportive and helpful– would you have stayed?

Absolutely. My plan was to teach until I decided to retire. I felt that I could have fun helping students with a wide variety of creative projects that would help them build real world skills and promising futures.

Do you feel that you failed your students?

I feel that our elected officials are failing an entire generation of students—intentionally. I was surprised that I couldn’t survive in today’s public school – but I hope I am helping to make a difference with my book and advocacy.

 Did you finish your three-year master’s degree at ESC?

That was not possible. I completed the first year. The second and third years were “mentored” teaching. It was required that I have a job as a teacher, with help from my college mentors. If you weren’t teaching you couldn’t continue. Having seen what I did, I realized that it was hopeless for me to try to continue. Once you’ve received a U – Unsatisfactory rating—in NYC schools, you can’t teach there anymore. I went back to publishing because I have a family and a mortgage.

 Can you share a little of your current work with us?

I am now the editor in chief of a chain of 17 community newspapers – Anton Community Newspapers – on Long Island, NY. In this position, I write articles and columns to help improve communities including, of course, public education.

What does your future look like, in terms of educational advocacy?

I am committed to helping get the truth out about what is happening in our schools. I will write/speak/champion wherever and whenever I can. Education leaders from throughout the nation were very kind in endorsing my book. And I am working with activist groups locally, regionally and nationally.

I will be a first-year teacher in Central Texas. I have already experienced the grade fluffing and supporting “social and emotional” needs of students and talk, talk, talk about classroom management in my field blocks and student teaching, as well as an special education system that has no structure or definition, causing IEPs from elementary school to die there, with documented needs and other necessary information not following students beyond 5th grade. What recommendations do you have for me as I embark on this first year?

First, congratulations on your commitment to becoming a teacher. That is wonderful! You deserve a great deal of respect.

Then, hold on to your hat—expect to be challenged in ways you never dreamed of.  I’m sure you realize that teaching is very hard, and that the first few years are difficult for all teachers, regardless of where you teach. Find a teacher to mentor you—and remember, at all times, that teachers make a huge difference in the world. Teaching is rewarding like no other profession.

Over 85% of Texas school districts use an educational curriculum support system, CSCOPE. Most teachers solely rely on CSCOPE for it’s curriculum instead of using it as supplemental curriculum, especially in rural areas, which have expressed that the current dilemma of removing CSCOPE would cause financial strain. What is your take on pre-developed curriculum programs such as this? Do you think it is contributing to the “bad teacher” rap? Is it making it easier for the slackers to make it through teacher prep programs? 

First, I want to make it clear that I did not encounter bad teachers or slackers in my grad program and my teaching. I think that people who go into teaching understand that they are embarking on a very challenging career. I think that the bad teacher rap is totally unfair—it is a way for politicians and deep-pocket businesspeople to break the all-important teacher unions and dismantle the public education system.

Of course there are some bad teachers—just as there are bad doctors, lawyers, etc. But few other groups have been targeted like teachers have.

I am not an expert on educational policy and I’m not familiar with CSCOPE. I think that teachers need and deserve the ability to decide what they need to do in the classroom, with the understanding that there are skills and reasonable standards that must be met.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Thank you for reading! Please spread the word to end the “Bad Teacher Witch Hunt” and to help focus the public on the true obstacles to providing education for our students. Get involved in helping support teachers and students in public schools. Read Diane Ravitch’s blog and become a member of her organization, The Network for Public Education. Join forces with Parents Across America. And speak up so that we can save our precious American public education system before the so-called “reformers” cause irreparable harm.

Giveaway & Book Review : Dreamscape (Netherworld Book 1)

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Dreamscape by Christie Rich (Tarser Publishing, 2013)

Genre: paranormal romance, new adult

eBook_Dreamscape (1)Dreamscape is a New Adult novel due to the age of the protagonist and mature situations in the book. There are mild sexual situations and mild language. This book is recommended for readers 16+.

Every night before Amelia falls asleep she makes a wish to dream of him – the man who calls her to their beautiful private oasis, her sanctuary where she is free of her greedy landlord’s threats. But tonight, he will not call Amelia to him. Tonight, another man will step into her world to claim her. Tonight, Amelia’s shattering reality will crumble – and disappear into the Dreamscape…along with her freedom.

When Amelia dreams tonight, her nightmare becomes her new world where Seth is her captor and anything is possible…except escape. Seth needs Amelia to break the curse that binds him to the Dreamscape. He must convince her that she was made to free him, that she was made to join him.

For if he fails, he will never escape his prison, and he will lose Earth to the Netherworld where the evil Erobos wait to consume the human realm and everything in it. If he fails, Seth will lose the one thing that matters to him: Amelia.

This book is not what I expected. Dreamscape is an interesting twist on what some would call the subconscious. In fact, our dreams come from a completely different world – and are orchestrated by individuals who can’t escape their life.

In time, all will be revealed. 

I don’t even know where to start about this book. I have nothing to reference it to in all of my history of reading. That is most definitely an intriguing sign!

Amelia is a recent high school graduate who had a rough life. She spent time in foster care and doesn’t trust anyone. She knows nobody sticks around – except her grandmother Justine, who rescued her from foster life. But now Justine’s gone too.

Jason, the boyfriend in her dreams for years, no longer comes to her when sleep does. He’s left her too. She is truly on her own, with very little money and nowhere to go…until a strange man seizes her – and takes her to another world. Netherworld.

Friend is the real F word in my book. 

He is a strange man, with instantaneous healing powers, and the ability to make things appear. He tells her she also has supernatural capabilities…and that our dreams are sent to us by him and his dwindled team, called Oneiroi. They are working diligently to protect Earth from darkness, from the Erobos. Many Oneiroi have turned dark, changing allegiance and feeding off of fear and other dark emotions. The Oneiroi think Amelia is their saving grace.

Amelia, my realm is the only thing separating Earth from the Erobos. If my realm falls, so will Earth. 

But will she allow herself to believe in him?  To trust them? To take down the mask she wears and be her true self? Especially after she finds out he’s not exactly who he says he is; she knows this man very much, but doesn’t recognize him.

Will she betray Seth and walk into the darkness, like the one before her?

I enjoyed this book immensely; it was quite a different and refreshing read. It definitely keeps readers on their toes.

It was slow going at first, with Amelia being held captive by Seth in his house – a house with no escape. During this time Seth is slowly trying to explain things to Amelia: the history of the Oneiri, their jobs, the various places, the way the Eros (“shattered remains of one being that was cursed and eventually transformed from substance into energy”) came to possess Oeniri and turned them into Erobos. This section was a little slow going and slightly repetitive, but this was the transition and adjustment period in the book, and Seth’s attempts at gaining Amelia’s trust.

I did have difficulty understanding the mechanics of the Netherworld, the Dreamscape, Metaspace, the networks, and Seth’s “realm.” Toward the end it became easier as the characters are moving through these places, but I still didn’t feel confident I could explain this information satisfactorily to another person.

From beginning to end, Amelia flourishes as a character. She grows and expands her cognitive processes, and I feel like I connected well with her character. She wasn’t a turn off; she enticed readers into her mindset. She is strong before Seth steals her away from Earth, and she grows much stronger in many ways from her journey.

About Christie Rich:

I grew up daydreaming about fairytales, and my love for discovering new worlds has never died. I am not one of those writers who always knew I would write. I thought that was what other people did until one day, a few years ago, I took a challenge from a friend and typed my first words. My journey has been wonderful, and I cannot imagine a day where I would ever give up writing. My love for reading is what fueled my imagination in the first place and still does. When I am not writing or reading, I enjoy family time with my husband and two children.  My family and I live in a quiet community  in Northern Utah, and I am so thankful for the rich life I have been blessed with.

Find the author: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

Enter for a chance to win!

There is a beautiful necklace custom-made by Primal Painter along with a signed paperback copy of Dreamscape. There is also a second prize of a $30 gift card.  Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to win!

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Thanks for stopping by my blog for the Dreamscape tour! This tour is hosted by CBB Book Promotions and you can find the tour page with the schedule and links HERE.