Book reviews and why they matter

Full disclaimer: I am an author’s worst nightmare. And as an author myself, I realize that my habit is a SHAMEFUL SIN. And no, it is not my terrible grammar. I am still in denial about that. Here’s my confession: I never write book reviews *hides face in shame*.

Reviews are the backbone of any author’s career. Even a bad review is better than no review, because essentially someone (whether in a positive or negative way) is at least talking about your book. Who knows— maybe someone would read a negative review and say: “Hmm… you hate this novel because the wizard lures a woman into his basement and forces her to perform show tunes all night long before he will grant her access to a fountain of youth potion. But that is EXACTLY what I want to read right now!” Bam—book sale.

Side note: Should I put a loose copyright on that idea?!? I have to admit I am a little intrigued.  My first question is what sort of show tunes does a wizard prefer to listen to?

Without getting too much into the business side of writing (I feel an upcoming post on this and don’t want to give away the farm too much, so to speak) here are just four reasons why book reviews are so important to an author’s career:

1) If you don’t tell them, how will they know? Unless you are best friends with Sandra (who lives next door to me) and she happens to mention that I told her about a good book, you would never know I read a good book BECAUSE I DIDN’T WRITE A REVIEW! I don’t know you, and I don’t get out much, therefore I think it’s safe to say I am never telling you about the best book I ever read. Which is a shame because it was good, and I want other people to read it as well. However, that’s never going to happen unless I—you guessed it!—write a review and recommend it!

2) There is comfort in numbers.  This doesn’t just apply to books, this basically applies to everything. Imagine I go to buy a fan online and I am deciding between two different ones—one has three hundred reviews and the other has none.  Unless in those three hundred reviews people say the fan burned their house down (even if there were a few bad reviews), I am probably going to be inclined to buy the one that other people have reviewed because, well, other people have bought it and they didn’t say it burned their house down. There is comfort in numbers and knowing, if nothing else, other people have bought what you are going to buy.

3) Amazon and their strange system. Amazon is just the worst in many ways, but in other ways they are the best (sales wise for sure!) and authors have to learn to love them or they will quickly find themselves fighting a losing battle. This is probably one of the most important relationships in an author’s career (especially if they are an indie author), and I promise I will write a post about them in the near future. But for now, staying on topic re: reviews, Amazon have a very complicated algorithm they use which determines your book placement, suggestions to new readers, etc. The more reviews a book has, the more chance the author has of being bumped up on their charts. You could write the next Animal Farm (weird example, I know, but I love that book and try to slip it into the conversation when I can, ha!), but unless you work the system no one will ever likely read it.

4) For an author to be featured on any sort of promotional site, they need reviews. Listen, we would like to read the next literary masterpiece and think the author is in it for the joy of writing. And maybe they are. But they aren’t going to be writing anything else if they die of starvation. Promotion is so important to an author’s career, and some of the best ways to do that are sites like Bookbub and ENT which promote when your book goes on sale. The crux is: you have to have book reviews and a certain amount of them to even be considered for these sites.

Anyways, I’ve gotten away from my point here. My point is, I am the type of reader that once I find an author I like, I am faithful to that author to my last dying breath. I will purchase and read everything that author writes, even if things go downhill after book twenty in the series. But it is very rarely, and I mean very rarely, I will write a book review. I tell anyone who will listen to me about books (mainly, Shauna, my hairstylist, as comparing our recently read books is kind of our thing), but for some reason I just never feel inclined to sit down and actually write a review. And it is such a shame, and something I am making a conscious effort to fix.

STARTING NOW!

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I’m sure you have heard me talk about my fan-girl obsession with Janet Dailey. I found her in my youth and have clung to her words ever since. Whenever the mood strikes me (which is a lot) I return to one of my favourites and will get lost for the afternoon or evening in the stories that bring me comfort.

Maybe it is because they are easy reads. Maybe its because it’s just uncomplicated romance with a few random historical tidbits thrown in for good measure. Or maybe its because most of her stories revolve around cowboys (who doesn’t love a good cowboy story?!).

I’ve read and own about thirty of her novels (and some novels have two books in one, so not only are they a great deal, but if you don’t have a ton of time to read they are shorter but get the job done if you know what I mean). I have so many favourites of hers, but I will list my top three below in case it interests anyone:

Big Country Sky (Found in the “Can’t Say Goodbye” book with “Show Me”)

Western Man

Darling Jenny (found in the “Maybe this Christmas” book with “Strange Bedfellow”)

*Please note while I was reading the backs of the books on my shelf I kept saying, “Oh, but this one is so good too.”

But, I’m not talking about those today. Today I am talking about Dailey’s new book that I just read. It’s called Texas Tall and it is part of the Tyler Brothers Series. I have read the other books in the series and I think this one might be my favourite. Actually, now that I am reflecting I think the first book is my favourite with Beau and Natalie (Texas True), but I liked this one because it is the last in the series and I have been waiting for this story for such a long time (we all knew it was coming).

Texas Tall tells the story of Will and Tori Tyler. They have been divorced for eight years, but because of their daughter they have stayed a close knit family (with plenty of tension throughout the years between the two divorcees). Anyways, fast forward to present day and now Tori, who is a lawyer, has to defend Will when he’s charged for murder after he kills someone in self defense.

I really like Tori and Will as characters, and I think it was smart for Dailey to save their story for last because quite frankly Will can be a bit of a stubborn ass. And not really for a good reason— I think it’s just more he’s the oldest, he is in charge of his family’s ranch, and it’s just sort of expected that what he says is what goes. I can see how this would wear on anyone, and I really liked that Tori didn’t bow to him (in the past or in present day). At the same time, she knew who he was and what his habits were so she picked her fights. I can respect that.

The actual trial/charge against Will was a little weak. There was never a doubt in my mind that it was self defense, and I think that was actually the point (there is some corruption in their town with the local sheriff and I think this was used to really highlight that).  But as someone who likes suspense novels as well, I would have liked it to have not been quite so black and white.

And now for the good stuff: the love story. I loved the backstory on Will and Tori and how until this book, and not until the end, did we really find out why they broke up in the first place.

It’s funny because I just went to see the Broadway show Grease, and while I was singing along, I couldn’t help but stop and think that while I love the music the actual story sends a pretty crappy message. The fact that Sandy can’t be herself and dresses in skintight leather pants to get the man in the end doesn’t really send a great or realistic message to anyone about love. And I am not really sure what Danny took from it in the end, but I think it was supposed to be the fact that if you like someone you shouldn’t care what your friends think. But as previously mentioned Sandy turned into one of them in the end anyways so he didn’t really have that hurdle to face anymore.

The reason I bring this up is, my number one pet peeve in romance novels is when people lose themselves for their significant other- because to me that isn’t love. Yes, your significant other should bring out the “best of you”, but it should still essentially be you with hopefully a few less bad habits. What I liked about this novel, and for the most part all of Janet Dailey’s books, is the fact that instead of spending the novel trying to change one another or even themselves to find their happily ever after, the characters learn to give and take so they can both be themselves but not want to kill each other at the same time.

I’m not sure what else to say, without giving away the ending, but I will sum it up as: it was good; I will read it again; and Janet Dailey is still the Queen of Romance for me ;).

In conclusion: I love cowboys; I still love Janet Dailey; and write book reviews—it’s not that hard, and they’re important.

 

 

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Fashionista Friday: Blondie

So, I used to have super blonde hair, but then like anything else I wanted a change.  I went to a darker, blonde ombré look and I feel it went pretty well for the winter.  But I can smell Spring, literally, weeks before it shows it’s face.  I have a weird sixth sense that at some point in February or March every year I put my sniffer in the air and can tell Spring is on the way.  I’m away next week and I keep telling everyone when I get back it’s going to be Spring.  This has been met with eye rolling, but I just know.  I don’t know how I know, but I just do.  Spring temperatures are going to greet me on my return.

And with Spring I decided I was due for a change.  A pretty big change.  So I’m attempting to go ultra blond today.  My hair is going to hate me afterwards but I’ve promised to take care of it.

My favourite shampoo is the Goldwell Kerasilk.  Smells amazing and really repairs my hair after I colour it.  

My favourite finishing spray is the Rusk texture spray.  It has a hold to it, but feels like you don’t have hairspray in your hair.  Also, for waves it separates them (without it my waves clump together after about 5 minutes!).

What do you think of the final product?


Funny side note about the shirt I am wearing.  It’s from RW&Co, but the collar is only attached to the shirt at the back.  When I first saw this I thought: Why would they do that?!  So I sewed the front in. Then I realized they didn’t attach the front because when attached I couldn’t get my head through the neck hole.  So then I unsewed it (<– is that a word?), but the collar kept falling out the front.  At this point I took this shirt as a challenge.  I looked for some safety pins but couldn’t find any.  Then I found some body tape that I had received from my husband the first year he did my Christmas stocking (for that disaster story click here).  You are supposed to use the tape to secure plunging fabrics to your body so you don’t have any mishaps (because, you know, I have SO many plunging necklines in my wardrobe 😉 ).  Anyways, I took it out, taped the collar to my neck and now as long as I don’t make any sudden jerky movements it stays put all day long.  Problem solved.

Fashionista Friday: The Face Wand

For this week’s Fashionista Friday I have to rewind to Christmas. I love Christmas, and that is probably the understatement of a lifetime. I love the lights, carols, spending time with family. I also happen to LOVE receiving my stocking. Since I was a kid, my favorite gift on Christmas has always been my stocking. My mum would fill it with fun lip glosses, nail polish, books, rings or a piece of jewelry. It’s the thing I look forward to most on Christmas morning. When my husband got passed on the duty of my stocking, I think it was a little nerve wracking for him.

“What do you want in it?” he asked.

“Anything!” I replied. I love the surprise of the stocking, maybe that’s why it is my favorite thing. I like taking out all the little trinkets and trying them out.

The first year my husband did my stocking he went on “stockingstuffers.com” and ordered everything.

Yep, you can imagine how that turned out.

The first thing I opened was a lipstick that you could write on the mirror with. When he saw my unimpressed face he commented, “Now you can leave me a note on the bathroom mirror.”

“Why would I ever do that?” I asked. “Then I would just have to clean it off.”

Another gem was a white plastic dome that you could put onto the side of anything hollow (pop can, box, garbage can, etc.) and it would turn into a speaker.

“Why would I stand next to a garbage can and listen to music?”

At the bottom of my stocking was a little pocket book: Urban Slang Dictionary.

“If young people can’t speak English, I don’t want to speak to them anyways!”

Needless to say it didn’t go down well.

After that first attempt, the hubby wised up and just walked around Shopper’s Drug Mart on Christmas Eve with all the other men and the world has returned to normal.

I tell you all of this, because my feature for this week’s Fashionista Friday is something I received in my stocking this year (and who doesn’t love a good backstory?).

My husband got me a Clinique face wand kit this year. It basically is like a big electric toothbrush for your face. You put a bit of foaming cleanser on it (it came with samples and I am still making my way through them, but you can use any facial cleanser you like), and run it over your face for thirty seconds.

Oh boy, does it ever make a difference. My skin feels so soft, and the undertone of pink in my skin on my t-zone has been reduced. I use it once a day in the evening and my skin feels fresh all throughout the next day as well. The charge on it last for about a month and then you plug it in for an hour or so and you are good to go for another month. It weighs next to nothing and comes with a cute travel pouch to take with you on holidays. The machine itself was $99.00, and I believe the replacement heads are around $20, but depending how aggressive you get with your face I would say the head should last you at least 3 months if not longer.

If you are thinking of getting one I would suggest even looking in your local department store (like the Bay or Sears) because they usually have a free gift with purchase for Clinique products. Or you can luck out like my husband did and get free movie tickets from Shopper’s Drug Mart with a Clinique purchase (can I get a woot, woot?)!

If you write it: Things are coming along nicely, if I do say so myself.

Oh, I am in full writing mode now. I’ve started June Jenson book three which has yet to be named (very excited about it, but also very sad to see the series come to an end). I’m also starting to write my Christmas novel. I’m not entirely sure how this will go, writing both of them at the same time. I don’t want to confuse any voices or tones because the two novels are very different, but if I get an inkling something isn’t right, I will stop the Christmas novel and focus on June until she is done. The June Jenson books always take longer to write than my more traditional women’s fiction novels because of the research and history that has to be woven into them. I love incorporating all the history into the novels, but it can also be very limiting. I can’t have June do anything I want her to do (as I can with my other novels) because I have to skirt the lines of history to make them come together in the end and sound credible. I’m hoping that by working on both books at the same time, I won’t feel as confined as I did writing the second June Jenson book. Or I could just be setting myself up for disaster, we’ll see! Should be fun ;).

My dad called me this week as well, and told about a dream he had that he thought would be a good plot for a story. He was right, it’s a cracker. So much so, that at the moment I want to abandon everything and write it. Unfortunately, I like order too much and can’t abandon something; I have to see it through to the end. Instead, I spent last night making piles of notes so that when I am able to write this new story I will remember all the plot points and characters that are swimming around in my head.

Fashionista Fridays: Oh, you pretty little things!

Fashionista Fridays:

If you follow my Instagram feed (@emilyswhitelies) you will know I am somewhat obsessed with the amazing Stella and Dot line. This week’s post is about the recent gems I have nabbed to make my ears look ever so pretty.


First is these amazing Asher earrings (link to purchase). I mean, let’s all just take a moment and admire them. Sigh…

They are pretty light and my favourite thing about them is they are a combination of silver and gold, so I can wear a combination of necklaces and rings with them. They really jazz up a pair of jeans and button down top, and I think they will really rock with a summer dress (that is, if we ever see the glorious sun again!). They come in at $54.00, but honestly they are worth every penny. They don’t irritate my ears which 99.9% of all fashion jewelry usually does- one of the main reasons I love Stella and Dot so much, as this has never happened with one of their pieces. I give them 9/10, only losing a point because I find sometimes the connection between the dangly part and the part that goes through my ear (yeah, I’m super technical in my descriptions ;)), gets caught and I have to wiggle them a little to hang free again.

Second is these super trendy ear climbers (link to purchase). I’ll admit that when I first ordered them I was a little unsure. Because they go up the side of my ears I was worried it would give me a bit of an elfish look (I don’t know why, but you know me- I worry about the weirdest things!). They actually look really chic on. I’m planning to rock then with a ponytail soon, but I desperately need my highlights done and I’ve been wearing my hair down recently to try and not bring attention to this fact, ha! I give them a full 10/10 because I don’t feel them when they are on, they look stunning and I have received a lot of compliments on them. I’m thinking of hinting to the hubby a gold pair would be a welcome Valentine’s present.

If you write it: Audiobooks

A while ago a friend told me that she loved to listen to audiobooks on her drive to work (she has quite a long drive, so she goes through a few audiobooks a month). I’d never really considered an audiobook before, but on her recommendation I gave it a go. I subscribe to Audible.com, which costs me $9.99 a month and gives me a credit for one free audiobook. Sometimes I go through more than one audiobook a month depending on the length, but other times I have credits from a previous month and just use those (they accumulate so you never lose them and they don’t expire). Audiobooks usually cost around $30.00 each, so I’ve found the subscription really good value.

I’m hooked. I feel like I am actually accomplishing something on my commute now, rather than a necessity of just getting from point A to B. So far my favourites are autobiographies. I have never read an autobiography before, mainly because I am not a huge nonfiction fan. But there is just something about having the author read their own story to me that makes me feel like we are sitting down, chatting about their life. Favourite autobiography of 2016: tied between Mindy Kaling’s “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and Michael McIntyre’s “Life and Laughing”.

I also really enjoy listening to literary fiction via audiobooks. Again, literary fiction isn’t something I would run to pick up myself, not because I don’t appreciate it, but because I think I am lazy. They just tend to take a little longer to fully engulf me, and I don’t seem to have time or the patience for it. Best literary fiction of 2016: Anthony Doerr’s “All The Light We Cannot See”. There is no chance I would have been able to sit down and read this book, but listening to it drew me into the world of the two main characters and I was hooked. So much so, that when I would get home in the evening, I would sometimes sit in the driveway to listen to just one more chapter. Brilliant, that’s all I can say.

Honorable mentions for 2016: I listened to all of the Harry Potter books. Okay, I know what you are thinking. This was an easier choice for me because I am kind of obsessed with Harry Potter. Well, let me tell you, I didn’t know Harry Potter could get any better until I listened to the audiobooks. The narrator, Jim Dale, turns each book into a one man play. He was simply sensational, and I fell in love with the books once more (something I hope I never stop doing with each new read).

Right now I am currently listening to the audiobook of The Light Between Oceans. I love it so far (I’m about half way through). Again, not something I think I would read curled up on the couch (those tend to be more romance or mystery books), but I am really enjoying it. It’s one of those novels that about three chapters in you think, uh oh, this isn’t going to end well. Time will tell, but I am loving the journey. And now I totally want to live in a lighthouse.

Fashionista Fridays: The WunderBrow

Every time I go on Facebook (which is far too often), I am constantly seeing “sponsored posts” of products Facebook has decided I would like. After much resistance on my part- meaning I held out for a grand total of five days before buying it- I splurged and bought the WunderBrow.

Haven’t heard of it, you say? Well, let me tell you, I am about to change your life.

I’m not a huge makeup person. I like makeup, but my routine pretty much consists of a bit of eye shadow and mascara. Foundation I wear to weddings or special events because a) I tend to break out if I have anything on my face for more then five minutes and b) it just seems like a lot of work to put it on every day. Recently, however, I had my makeup done for headshots and the makeup artist penciled in my eyebrows. I was unsure about it at the time, but once I saw a photo of myself I realized that a defined eyebrow actually does make a huge difference for my face. Maybe because I am very fair skinned, maybe because I have lighter hair- who knows? The point is it made a difference, at least to me it did.

Fast forward a few months and I see the Wunderbrow coming up on my Facebook feed all the time. Well, I had to try it, didn’t I? The Facebook gods were practically demanding it. So, I bought it, and the results are in:

I LOVE IT!

I would call it a cross between a gel and a liquid liner, but then it dries to look like an eyebrow pencil (I don’t know how it does it, so don’t ask!). I don’t use the brush that it comes with because I attempt to have a light hand when applying and the thick brush tends to be too heavy. Instead, I use my angle brush I got in one of my IPSY bags (another post for another day, I’m sure), and apply it using that. It allows me to get thin short strokes in an attempt to get it to look natural. Yes, I want my gorgeous fake eyebrows to look like they are naturally sculpted to perfection. And it works! Don’t believe me? Well, see for yourself!  


You really should try it.  It cost me around $30 including tax and shipping and I reckon there is enough in the bottle for six months use.  It’s also waterproof and if you YouTube it, there is a woman pouring all sorts of liquid over her face to prove it (forget the product, it’s worth the search just to see what else she finds to pour all over her face- we’re talking juice, milk, I was waiting for someone to bring out the garden hose!). But word to the wise: really enunciate if you plan on talking about this with anyone.  My dad was on the phone with me when it arrived in the mail and he thought I said my Wonderbra had arrived, and I was going on about how excited I was to try it out!

So, that just happened.

I live in a pretty small town in the country. Our population is 2,180 but I’m not sure if they have updated the sign since we moved here so let’s call it 2,184.

I love living here. Coming from a busy city, I appreciate that we only have one general store that sells everything you could possibly need (Well, actually, it’s more like they sell candy bars and pies- but I am VERY comfortable with this). Because we are such a small community, I felt an immediate sense of inclusion. People are so freaking nice here. When you’re standing outside waiting for the school bus, people actually stop and say hello to you. After two minutes you know their daughter is visiting on the weekend, they have two cats- they used to have three but Misty got out last Spring and never came home, and they will be returning this afternoon with that cobbler recipe they told you about.

As any good resident to a new town, I immediately joined their social media group which mainly consists of people posting that their cat has gotten out, or they heard a loud noise and want to know if anyone else heard it.

I was late getting out of the house last week. My son couldn’t find his glasses, so the time I usually spend making my coffee was spent turning the house upside down looking for his glasses (we eventually found them in the exact spot I told him to look from the beginning). Finally managing to get the kids on the bus, I quickly made my coffee and got in the car. The quickest route to work consists of going down a country road for a quarter of an hour with no cellphone reception. It makes me a little nervous so I try and avoid this route in the evening, but I guess I am a risk taker in daylight and drive down it in the mornings.

I just turned onto the road that morning and spotted a small dog to my right, just wandering around. Even though I was late for work, I had to pull the car over. I know I would have thought about the dog all day if I didn’t at least stop and try to help. Disclaimer: Since moving to the country I have discovered that just because roads are winding and have many blind corners, this does not slow people down. I was therefore imagining this poor dog getting hit by a car and in my mind it would have been my fault. Anyways, I got out of the car and not sure what to do, I tried to call the dog over to me. He looked up, but made no indication of coming over to me. I looked both ways and then took a few steps towards him, but every step I took he kept backing up more and more. At this point I was really late for work, and I thought better of trying to somehow get a hold of dog that really didn’t want me to approach it. Instead, I grabbed my phone and took a picture of him and posted it to our town’s social media group. The post went something like this:

Hello! This is my first post to the group (yah!). I was just on my way to work when I saw this dog wandering down the side of the road. I have tried to call him to me, but he doesn’t seem very friendly so thought better of approaching him. I thought I would post a picture of him instead, and if anyone is missing their dog or anyone knows whose dog this is, come and get him! Hope he gets home soon!

I attached the picture to the post and continued my drive to work. When I got to work the first thing I did was check my phone to see if anyone had commented on my post. There was only one comment and it read:

Umm, yeah, that’s a coyote. Definitely don’t try and put him in your car.

lost-dog-sign

It’s been a struggle.

Well, it has been a year since I published my last book, June Jenson and the Shield of Quell.  I have a sequel in the works (I am about 80 percent done, and if I am honest the last 20 percent is as much of a struggle as the first 80 was).  The book is good (you know, in my humble opinion), and I am not FORCING words to come out, it’s more forcing myself to sit in my chair and write it.  I desperately want to tell June’s story, and I am hoping that this will be a three-part series.  But let me tell you, I take my hat off to historical writers.  Especially historical fiction writers.  There is a lot of research that needs to go into a historical book, but then to really mess with the whole process I then have to weave fiction into what actually happened and make it sound believable (Dan Brown, I literally have no idea how you did it).  Having said that, I am enjoying the series.  I love the Professor.  I love all the characters, but he is definitely my favourite (don’t tell the others!), and once I get into the swing of things re:writing it comes out so naturally.  But then I have to do some “real life” things like laundry, kid’s soccer games and go to work and I can’t seem to get my butt back into that chair for weeks.

I am apart of a local writers group and I find it very helpful with the motivation and determination to get this done.  A) because I can’t really show up to the meetings without something written and B) talking about writing with people who are just as passionate about it as I am is very encouraging.  I now try to clear my mornings the week after my meetings while I am still in the “zone” and write my heart out.  Then for the next three weeks I get distracted until the next meeting and it all starts again!  Maybe one day I can be a writer full time and I will have to drag myself OUT of the chair (that’s exactly how that would work, right?).

Anyways, I just wanted to let you all know that June Jenson Book #2 (another problem is the book title, but I really can’t tackle it right now on top of everything else!) is on it’s way hopefully by the end of the summer.

I am hoping to release a traditional chick-lit Christmas book before the New Year as well so I really need to get on this!

More updates to come, I promise.